TAMPA - “I’ve never really spoken his name,” said Telisia Espinosa of Tampa. She said the man, whose actual name she still can not bring herself to utter, trapped her into a life of sex trafficking for five years.
Espinosa said she was moved through at least a dozen states while in her early twenties.
Espinosa was brought to tears as she looked at pictures from her past and recounted some of the worst things she saw and experienced. “That day, I probably slept with twenty to thirty men. I’ve had to jump out of moving vehicles. I’ve had to run for my life. Girls have been murdered, abused and still had to come out into the streets with black eyes and broken bones,” she said.
Espinosa said she was bound to that life not by chains or locks, but by emotion. “I carried so much shame and guilt,” she said. Espinosa said she was sexually abused as a child, which left her feeling empty as an adult.
She said she only felt fulfilled by a man she met while working in an entertainment club. He sucked her into a life of sex trafficking with attention, gifts and promises. “I didn’t choose to stay because I wanted to sell my body. I stayed because I wanted to be with a man who I thought loved me. I wouldn’t even speak to police because my mind was so brainwashed,” she said.
She fears others will fall victim to this life, and soon. Clearwater police predict a 50% increase in sex trafficking activity the week of the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.
Police say traffickers will be looking to capitalize on the crowds. “It’s easy for them to blend in. People need to be aware. This city needs to be aware and say we won’t take it in our city,” Espinosa said.
To raise awareness, Espinosa will share her story at community events in the weeks leading up to the R.N.C. including the later chapters of how she found the strength to break out of a life of sex trafficking through faith.
“I’m just so thankful to God that I’m not where I used to be. I’m not living that life anymore. I’m not enslaved in mind and body. I am going to make a difference,” she said.
Espinosa said she has no idea what happened to the man she said brainwashed her into sex trafficking. She said she left him behind in Las Vegas, NV eleven years ago. She never looked back. She never prosecuted.
Espinosa will be speaking on behalf of a women’s rights group called Zonta leading up to the R.N.C. Learn more about Zonta of Pinellas County here: http://www.zontaclubpinellas.org/
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