TRAFFICKED: A Mother's Story

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Human trafficking is becoming a major concern in our community. Rockford ranks number two in the state and number eight in the nation based on those who purchase sex from online resources. One stateline mom is working to get her daughter out of the trafficking cycle and how the city is working to combat this growing issue. The mother has requested we not share her identity to keep her daughter and her family safe. She will be referred to as Tasha.

“Every day, every minute she's out there on the street is hell for me,” said Tasha.

Earlier this year, Tasha noticed changes in her daughter's behavior and in her choice of friends.

"I noticed a change in her attitude, a change in her dress; she was dressing much more provocatively,” said Tasha.
When Tasha voiced concerns, her daughter took off, left home and didn't come back.

"I was heart sick, heart broken, scared out of my ever loving mind,” said Tasha.

Concerned about her daughter’s actions and behavior, Tasha contacted the Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation only that's when her nightmare began.

"They had found advertisements for my daughter to be sold in hotels."

RAASE monitors the website, Backpage that pimps use to sell women. RAASE says the Rockford site can have nearly 40 people up for sale each day.

"A trafficker will systematically deconstruct a person's mind, body and soul through this art of pimping and sex trafficking,” said co-founder and vice president of RAASE, Lori Johnson.

Tasha's had little contact with her daughter. But when they do speak, Tasha says her daughter appears to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol that's most likely being provided by the pimps.

"The only way that they can survive, is to depend on their abuser,” said Johnson.

Tasha says going out and getting her daughter sounds like an easy fix, but that could pose dangerous risks to both of them.

"If we go in and get her, they can come after my family so it will maybe cause us to be in a dangerous situation,” said Tasha.

"They're being watched all the time, and they're being controlled coerced. It's a very, very underground and it's happening right here in Winnebago County,” said Johnson.

Rockford ranks at the top for human trafficking both statewide and nationally, according to Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. The city recently created a position to help track pimps and help victims.

"The numbers are just startling and sad and the city of Rockford being ranked 2nd in the state, I think we have a moral obligation to do something,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.

Tasha appreciates the city's efforts, but says news of the disbanding of the Winnebago County Tac Team that works undercover to track pimps was heartbreaking.

"I felt like the light at the end of the tunnel went out,” said Tasha.
"It was a last resort that really is very frustrating and sad for us,” said Winnebago County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Mark Karner.

Sheriff Gary Caruana said the disbanding is temporary. In the meantime, Tasha isn't giving up hope that RAASE will help bring her daughter back home.

"My hope is that when my daughter comes home, that some good will come of it, that we might be able to help other girls."

The Rockford City Council voted this week to implement an office under the mayor that will aid victims of human trafficking. There is no word on if or when the Winnebago County Tactical Unit will be put back into place, but Tasha says for now, RAASE is what is giving her hope through this tough time as she waits for her daughter to come home.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking you can contact the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.