Sex trafficking survivor shares her story

It might seem hard to believe, but Long Island is one of the top 20 places in the nation to be impacted by human trafficking, and during COVID things got even worse.

Emily Waters was one of those victims of trafficking, and now she is sharing her story to help others. 

"I was violently beaten and raped if I tried to get out," she said. "This scar on my neck here - they broke my neck. I was stabbed multiple times." 

Walters was 18 and working as an underage bartender at a hotel in Texas that was taken over by a cartel.

"I was working 3 jobs sleeping two hours a night to pay for college courses," Waters said. 

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In just a short time, Waters was being forced to take meth, a powerful stimulant, to be available at all hours for sex buyers. 

"The average life expectancy of someone who is being trafficked is seven years," she said. "I was one of the lucky ones to survive." 

While Waters’ experience happened in the Midwest, Long Island is among the top 20 places in the country impacted by human trafficking according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

"This is something that is, I think, one of Long Island's biggest hidden secrets, and in the wake of COVID it's gotten even worse," said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, President and CEO, Family & Children’s Association.

According to Reynolds, trafficking has gotten at least 20% worse, owing to an increase in drug addiction and a loss of income during the pandemic. 

"It happens usually 4 a.m., 5 a.m., when traffickers are looking for vulnerable young woman hanging out on the street or the person who seems to be getting drugs on a regular basis and has no way to support that habit," Reynolds said. 

As for Waters who underwent detox, intensive therapy, and now at 40 is finishing her doctorate in social work, says the issue is happening on Long Island on a daily basis and affects all people regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status. 

"Trafficking is now the mother who can’t afford to pay rent and gives her 12-year-old daughter to the landlord to have sex with, or kids who are having trouble at home who really don't get love and affection or see what proper love and affection look like," Waters said. 

Waters warns parents that many times, recruitment starts on social media and if you are a victim, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

You can also visit the Polaris Project website or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.