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"He told me he could help me," how a Jacksonville woman was recruited into sex trafficking

<p>JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A life of sex, drugs and slavery. It's easy to hear the words 'sex trafficking' and think it's a problem isolated in a far off land  or a poor corner of your community. It isn't. </p>

Heather Crawford

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A life of sex, drugs and slavery. It's easy to hear the words 'sex trafficking' and think it's a problem isolated in a far off land or a poor corner of your community. It isn't.

The people pulled into that life include girls and boys who were riding their bikes down your street just a few years ago.

"I want everyone to know that it could happen to anyone, anybody," said Alyssa Beck.

Beck is a survivor.

"I think it's important to share my story not only to raise awareness, but to let all the other women, girls, boys know there is hope. There is a way out of the sex trade."

The straight-A student who grew up in Jacksonville Beach, started running away when she was just 13. By the time she was 15, she found herself in drug rehab.

"I swore I wanted to change. I swore I wanted to do better, but I met this girl. This girl was just powerful. You know, she had a voice, and I just wanted to be like her so when she asked me if I want to run away from the rehab I automatically said yes not knowing that she was already caught into the sex trade," explained Beck.

Within a week Beck said she met a man in his late 20s at an apartment complex on Jacksonville's south side. He told her he could help her.

"I just remember him being really nice and you know he was kind and I thought he was a good guy," said Beck.

"I was introduced to really hard drugs by him and he started you know transporting me to different locations where I was trafficked. Then finally you know when I was like I'm not comfortable with this. I don't want to do this anymore, he started holding me hostage in hotel rooms around Jacksonville, Florida and he held me against my will and that's how it really started."

For weeks she was a sex slave held captive in Jacksonville.

"For me it was both sides both times it was on the south side of Jacksonville, but I don't want people to think it just happens there. Like I said, it happens at the Town Center. It happens on Baymeadows. It happens on Philips Highway, but it's not just Philips Highway. It's everywhere and anywhere in Jacksonville and all around this state and country. It's not just one area," said Beck.

On one occasion Beck says a church pastor bought her.

"It was really shameful," said Beck. "It was degrading you know to feel like someone that is supposed to counsel and lead is actually using me in my most vulnerable state. I remember saying to myself i just want to die. I can't do this anymore. I had no hope for myself or for my future, and I honestly I never thought I would be out of the sex trade. I felt so much shame and I blamed myself as a lot of women and girls and boys do. You know we blame ourselves for being caught in the sex trade."

Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline 550 cases were reported in Florida in 2016.

Beck finally escaped and was able to run away from her trafficker. She later ended up in foster care in a group home, and at the age of 16 says another trafficker approached her as she was walking to the park.

"Traffickers actually watched girls leave and picked girls up from that home right here in Jacksonville," said Beck. "He was right there on the street and it was no coincidence that he was riding down the street when I was walking. He was looking for a girl to recruit."

He, like her first trafficker, told her he could help her. Her life quickly spiraled out of control.

"So with my first trafficker I was physically held captive and I wasn't tied down all the time, but he did take my clothes away so I was less inclined to run and a lot of times I was held on the second story of the hotel room where I couldn't run," recalled Beck. "The second time it was more mental. I felt I was in fear for my life."

She made up her mind she had had enough and was determined to get away.

"I got arrested the last time when I stood up against my trafficker, and I was like you know what I'm tired of being a victim. I'm tired of being a criminal. I just want to be Alyssa, and from then on you know I was just like I won't let anything stop me. I have to do good," said Beck.

Now 22-years-old, Beck works at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and at Rethreaded, a Jacksonville non-profit that is breaking the cycle of the sex trade by offering work to those affected by it.

"A girl, woman, boy doesn't wake up and say you know I want to sell my body today. They're led into the sex trade by some sort of desperation and until we really start realizing that we're going to continue to target the women who are really the victims and ignore the men who are buying the sex," said Beck.

If you or someone you know is being trafficked help is available by calling The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

The FDLE, State Attorney's Office, JSO and FBI have a Human Trafficking Task Force to investigate these cases.

“We all have an important role to play in combating human trafficking,” said FDLE Jacksonville Special Agent in Charge John Burke. “Many of these investigations begin with a tip from a citizen and require multi-agency collaboration as they are often long-term, multi-jurisdictional investigations. These cases involve victims who are enslaved by others usually for the purpose of making a profit and these cases will continue to be a priority for FDLE.”

As for Beck's traffickers she says one was sentenced to life in prison and the other sentenced to more than a decade behind bars.