MCLEAN, Va. - A community seminar was held in McLean, Virginia on Thursday to raise awareness about human trafficking, which organizers said was more rampant than people realize and it could happen to any family.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock — who’s sponsored several bills to fight the issue — spoke to the crowd about the signs to look for. Experts say human traffickers groom their victims by luring them with fancy gifts or fake affection, slowing breaking them down. Advocates say there’s a misconception about who could be a victim.
“I’m from one of the biggest cost of living areas in the United States,” explained Barbara Amaya, a human trafficking survivor and author of "Nobody’s Girl." “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, human trafficking is about supply and demand, and vulnerabilities being preyed upon.”
Amaya was trafficked in New York for more than a decade before breaking free of the system. Human trafficking survivor Alicia Kozakiewicz barely made it out alive after being captured.
“When I was 13 years I was groomed and lured from my home by an internet predator,” she explained. “He took me from my home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and actually brought me here to Virginia, to Herndon, where I was held captive in his basement dungeon. I was raped, beaten and tortured. I feared for my life. I thought I was going to die. He was either going to kill me or sell me.”
Kozakiewicz is now an advocate and motivational speaker on the issue. She’s partnered with Airline Ambassadors to train flight attendants on what to look out for during flights.