“Most of them were respected, successful career-driven men. Most of them had families at home. This is what surprises America,” Myers said. “It’s not these big, fat smelly gross guys. It’s often very prominent men in the community. The issue isn’t just something from a Hollywood movie.”
Emily Myers founded Lacey’s Hope Project after she was arrested and began recovering from her experience as a sex trafficking victim. Her goal is to help raise awareness of modern-day slavery by focusing on the signs and dangers of sex trafficking and the healing processes that survivors go through.
Emily’s mother says that Emily was raised in the suburbs around the Hartford area. She had a happy, normal childhood with birthday parties, friends, “and people all around”. “I think yeah, to the outside world we looked like a normal American family. I always felt that living in the suburbs was…. if you lived in the suburbs, you lived a lifetime movie, a perfect life type of thing. Little did I know that I actually threw my daughter right into the fire”.
Emily’s trafficker worked much like a cult leader or recruiter would. Emily met her trafficker through a friend her junior year of high school. She thought “he was supercool”. She fell “crazy in love” with him her sister tells. She thought he was going to be her knight and shining armor. Later, Emily found out that he was doing drugs and she began using too.
“She started to lie, and it was just very small things about… you know, where she was, and who she was with, and it was like well, that’s not typical of her why would she be doing that?”. Her sister remembers. Emily remembers her sister wanting to help her too.
“I met my trafficker, my drug dealer through another female. She wanted to be my friend. She wanted to help me. At that time, I really needed somebody. I needed a shoulder to lean on, and she was that”. Emily states. “Little did I know she had been watching me for months”.
The traffickers were getting to know Emily while everyone else in the suburb was unaware of what was happening to Emily right under their noses. The traffickers studied Emily, and her family. They wanted to know who she cared about. They found what she liked to do, what her insecurities were, and her weak spots. The whole time they were pretending to be her friend and promising her things that they knew she wanted.
“He sold me the American dream,” Emily said, “and I was in need of somebody saving me”. Then he took her social security card, her identification, and he took pictures of her nephews. He used those pictures against her. “I’m gonna kill your loved ones,” her trafficker said to her to make her do things that she otherwise would not have done. Emily says that her trafficker used text messages, apps, and websites, then, “he sold me to the highest bidder”, she said.
“More often than not it was men on their way to work, with their families at home, or men on Sundays you know, when they drop their wife and kids off at church ,and men you would never think about, your CEOs, your business man, your soccer dads, cops, politicians, priests. You name it I’ve probably come across it and if I haven’t I’d know somebody that has”.
Emily disappeared on her mother’s birthday. Her mother received a phone call from Emily that just didn’t seem right, and then she “received a phone call from the trafficker telling her that she would never see her daughter again”. Her mother lost it.
The family went to the police. Her sister spent about 7 hours being educated about how trafficking works. “I sat down with a few Jack Tibbs there who enlightened me to this whole other world that I was completely naïve……… and there’s this website called backpage.com where the police officer told me you can order a woman faster than you can order a pizza. It took a few hours and researching and we found an ad for my sister for sale. They had dyed her hair red and there was a number in here and so from there we google search that number and found that she was listed on about 20 other websites for sale”.
Emily realized that her family was searching for her, but she hid from them. “I had realized that they were looking for me because there were missing persons posters up, and a Facebook page, but I was hiding in plain sight, and so many victims today are. We are hiding in plain sight. There were multiple times that I knew I wanted to get out of the life……… that I needed to get out of the life, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t wanna be dopesick, and I didn’t wanna go to jail. I was scared”. Finally, Emily intentionally went into a store to steal stuff knowing that she would get caught. At that point Emily was so desperate that getting arrested didn’t scare her so much anymore.
Sex traffickers do not discriminate. There are no boundaries. Emily has trained over 2500 professionals in her community to rescue sex trafficking victims. The advocates she trains go into homes. They look for things like multiple people living in a house that doesn’t have enough beds, and bruises. Lacey’s Hope Project raises awareness so that people talk openly about sex trafficking.
Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state. The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.