Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 | 8:05 p.m.
When a Las Vegas woman’s daughter befriended a male classmate at a Las Vegas high school, the mother was thrilled the teen was making friends.
As the youngest, the girl had been showing signs of low self-esteem and was withdrawn from the family. But her mother soon realized the relationship between her daughter and her new “boyfriend” was far from healthy.
“She became angry; she became verbally abusive. She had bruises on her that she couldn’t explain,” the woman said in a video testimony. “Little did we know that he was pandering her, pimping her out on the streets of Las Vegas.”
The video opened the Human Trafficking Family Forum at the International Church of Las Vegas on Saturday morning. The woman said she hopes her family’s story can shed some light on the secret world of sex trafficking in Las Vegas.
“I’m here as a mom,” she said. “I should be sitting where you are and unfortunately I can’t, because this did happen to our family. My reasoning for exposing our family’s tragedy, which is very hard to do, is to expose the issue.”
The woman said she discovered her daughter was a “trick roller,” a prostitute who robs clients. With the help of Metro Police detectives, she saved her daughter and the boy is now in jail, but the experience has scarred her daughter for life.
Metro Lt. Karen Hughes said more than 2,100 juvenile victims in the valley have been forced into prostitution since 1994. So far this year, there have been 103 new cases of sex trafficking.
Hughes said the youngest victim she has encountered was 11 years old.
“There are hundreds of families every year that we deal with,” Hughes said. “Eight out of our 10 cases that we see that are deemed human trafficking have a sexual component to them. The victims are either trafficked on the streets, within the hotels of Las Vegas, through the Internet, through escort services — any venue people can find.”
Hughes, along with vice detective Chris Bauchman, Capt. Larry Burns, District Court Judge William Voy and ICLV pastor Paul Goulet presented the forum highlighting the warning signs and impact of sex trafficking. Their goal: to prevent sex trafficking by empowering parents and teens.
Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening, Hughes said. And unlike in the past, when many prostitutes were from out of state, almost 75 percent of the cases involve females from Las Vegas, she sadi.
“The tables have turned. The pimps have their own breeding ground here in Las Vegas. They come here, they stay here and they recruit your girls out of your high schools.”
Goulet, who worked as a counselor before becoming pastor of the ICLA, guided parents through what abuse may look like and what to look for. Encouraging girls to speak out and making sure the victim has a support system is key to moving past the abuse, Goulet said.
Bauchman said warning signs may include tattoos of men’s names or dollar signs, bruises, changes in normal behavior and friends who have expensive cars and other luxury items but no jobs.
“The fight begins on the home front,” Bauchman said. “It begins by understanding what you are looking for.”
For more information, go the the Las Vegas Dream Center website.