Hundreds of girls are being sold for sex in East Texas. For those that eventually make it out, experts tell CBS19 recovering is often the hardest part.
Allie Braden was promised the world and left with nothing.
"Bruises. Being beaten. Raped. Nothing,” she said.
Braden didn’t come from a bad home. She said she was always very insecure, and had love needs that weren’t being met.
She was recruited by a girl.
"This girl came up to me,” she said. “She was wearing really nice clothes. Her hair was done. Her nails were done."
Braden said she was offering her a better life – food, clothes, money – all she had to do was say “yes”.
She was sucked in.
"Here were people willing to meet my immediate needs,” Braden said. “At the time, I was stealing to live. I was surviving. I was willing to do whatever it took."
Remembering her time “in the life” as she calls it, she was only involved for a month.
It was a month she said felt like eternity.
"Johns come to your hotel, and you do what you got to do. You just find a way to dig down deep inside of yourself and get it over with,” she said.
At 20 years old, she was forced to have sex with 15 men a day with the promise to make money and have the life she dreamed of.
"You feel pressured, because it's like if you don't go with this person, then you're on your own. Your surviving is up to you, but here's someone who's saying he's going to take care of you,” she said.
She crossed a line and couldn’t go back.
After one month, she left the life, and today she is a victim advocate at For the Silent – an organization in Tyler helping with crisis intervention and survivor care.
“If they need simple things like their birth certificate or social security card, we help them. Those things really build up, and it’s hard to do it on your own,” she said.
The group works closely with the Tyler Police Department.
Anytime the non-profit rescues a girl, Braden helps get them back on their feet – first addressing immediate needs like going to the hospital or finding shelter.
For the silent also has a prevention program called “I Have a Voice”. It’s an outreach program in middle schools, working to empower girls and show them what to watch out for.
"Our volunteers spend 10-12 weeks with them, going through a really powerful, nationally acclaimed curriculum that really informs them on what to look out for in our area,” said Kenny Rigsby, who works with For the Silent and teaches the program.
He said some of the risk factors include homelessness, coming from an abusive background and foster care.
Just the fact of being a teenage girl makes someone vulnerable.
"When those things are present in a girl's life, it really makes them vulnerable to being targeted by pimps, who see those cracks,” Rigsby said. “They see the issues. Then they look to exploit those, and look to prostitute them out."
Braden said her goal is to give girls their sense of empowerment and freedom back, in hopes to take over their lives.
"There is hope, and there is a way out. You can never go too far deep to have a completely different life,” she said.