Posted Jan 24 2019 05:32PM EST
Video Posted Jan 24 2019 05:21PM EST
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (FOX 2) - Theresa Flores was 15-years-old and just a sophomore at Birmingham Groves high school nearly 40 years ago when she was sold into a sex trafficking ring. Her story has become a book and now she's back to offer hope and help.
"I left here 37 years ago and said I would never come back. I was broken," she said.
Theresa is a survivor and is back where her nightmare started. She met an older boy at her high school, Birmingham Groves, and she wound up being sold in a sex trafficking ring. She was a student by day and a victim by night.
She had no choice. She said her traffickers threatened to kill her family if she said anything then they forced her to have sex with multiple men on multiple nights over the course of 18 months.
"So I would sneak out several nights a week and go through my backyard and wait for them to pick me up. (They would take me) to beautiful, rich homes all around this area," Theresa said.
One night, Theresa said she was kidnapped and then left for dead at a Detroit motel. Somehow she got the strength to get up and stumble into a diner to get help.
"A waitress said something to me nobody said, ever: 'Can I help you?' So she called the police and they brought me home," she said.
Shortly after she was saved, she moved away from Birmingham. The traffickers were never prosecuted; two are dead and one still lives in the area.
She's now an author and advocate and spoke Thursday at the Townsend in Birmingham during a fundraiser for CARE House of Oakland County. She also has her own organization, SOAP - Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution - that, among other things, places bars of soap in hotels across the country with information for victims about how to get help.
Blythe Spitsbergen is the executive director of CARE House in Oakland County. The organization works with victims of child abuse and tries to prevent it.
"In Michigan, we rank sixth in the nation for human trafficking," Spitsbergen said. "27,000 kids - just here in Oakland County - will be sexually abused before they turn 18. That's a scary number."
We have to educate our children, she says, about stranger danger but also about people they know and trust. Social media makes it even harder as human traffickers could be lurking on the other side of the smartphone connection.
"We know that one in five kids will be propositioned via the internet or social media. That means 20 percent of kids sitting on their couch, in there home will be propositioned by a perpetrator," Spitsbergen said.
That makes Theresa even more dedicated to her efforts to stop the crime and help children - who it will impact forever.
"That's what drives me to do this now - to come back here - is because of all the other Theresa's out there now," she said.