Sex Trafficking Survivor: "This Will Never Stop"

Kris Wade Speaks at Trafficking Conference in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –- Two weeks ago 13 Asian massage parlors and five homes were raided across Springfield, allegedly connected to human trafficking and Asian organized crime.

Friday, hundreds gathered at CoxHealth for a conference on human trafficking. While it comes just two weeks after the raids, it was planned six months in advance. The timing proves that although the public might not know how big of an issue this is in Springfield, the hospitals sure do.

The massage raids paint a very clear picture of what a trafficked victim looks like, or so we’d think. Lana Garcia, a sexual assault nurse examiner, says it’s not that simple.

"I've sat with these people,” Garcia said. “I've looked them in the eyes. I've heard their stories.”

A sex trafficking survivor and the executive director of The Justice Project in Kansas City, Kris Wade, had a similar disclaimer Friday.

"Trafficking just doesn't happen to kids in poverty, it just doesn't happen to people who have lived in an abusive family,” she said.

Her face doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a trafficking victim.

"On the one hand, I was a cheerleader and president of the debate team and all of that,” Wade said. "On the other hand, I was running around with college boys."

Wade fell under the control of a motorcycle gang in Chicago after running away from home at 18. The men quickly offered her food and a place to stay right as she got off the train.       

"I'm like, ‘well I've been here two minutes and I'm already a huge success,’" Wade said.

Hundreds of medical professionals gathered at Cox Friday, hoping her message can help them better treat victims.

"We've seen people forced to intake drugs,” Garcia said. “We’ve seen horrific assault or abuse relating to people who were being forced to do something against their will."

Garcia developed a passion for the industry several years ago.

"Just because it hasn't made the news doesn't mean we aren't seeing it here at the hospital,” she said.

The survivor also presented a candid warning: "This will never stop. We have to get that through our heads. This isn't going to stop."

Local nurses are doing what they can, like providing flyers of resources to patients raising red flags. Garcia describes what happened when one of her colleagues did just that.

"He said that she folded them up and she just shoved it into the bottom of her wallet, like where the cash would go, so it's not easily noticeable for anything,”she said.

Wade says she’s hopeful new legislation will help crack down and punish people who buy sex. She says right now, the law is set up to do little more than give those people a slap on the wrist.

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