King County, Wash. — January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
A local non-profit says a recent sex trafficking ring bust in King County was not surprising.
One woman also wanted to share how she was forced into prostitution as a child with KIRO 7 as a warning for teens and parents.
"People don't realize it can happen to the girl next door," said Katariina Rosenblatt via Facetime.
Rosenblatt knows this, because it happened to her.
As the Miami native reveals in her book ‘Stolen,’ when she was 13-year-old she was groomed by people she thought were friends.
She says she was then forced into a sex trafficking network out of fake apartments then hotels during the 80s in Miami.
“To sell to sex tourists who had come to Miami looking for sex with children,” said Rosenblatt. "And they tried to sell my virginity for $550."
The troubled teen would numb the pain with drugs.
"I did have moments of clarity where I was filled with shame and remorse and regret," she said.
“Katariina is essentially one of those people who basically turned her victimization into a success story,” said Phil Martin, national director of Compassion2One.
Martin’s non-profit is based in Issaquah.
He says more awareness is needed as an increasing number of girls in this region are targeted. “Ask yourself, what can I do," he said.
"They're being abducted within malls, movie theaters, border crossings Canada, down by Portland," said Martin.
Compassion2One reports girls are young as 11 have been targeted in the Seattle area.
“And that's an average age around this country," said Martin.
Immigrants of all ages are also vulnerable.
Almost two weeks ago, police rescued a dozen women brought illegally from Korea and forced into prostitution out of high-end Bellevue apartments.
Investigators say, a group of local men started a club called "the league" - an
online forum dedicated to sex trafficking.
Police arrested 13 men and a woman.
Asked if the case in Bellevue surprised him, Martin quickly responded:
"No. this didn't surprise me as somebody who works in this field that hears about this every single day…They direct traffic to these hotels where these guys come and they rape and they pay for sex."
Rosenblatt credits faith for escaping forced prostitution as a teen.
She got her PhD and started a non-profit called ‘There is hope for me.’
"So that I can tell others if there was hope for me as lost as I was, there is definitely hope for you," she said.
Rosenblatt spoke to KIRO 7 via Facetime.
She's in Washington D-C and says she will be among other trafficking survivors speaking to Congress this week.
One thing she's pushing for is to have some criminal charges dropped while victims were involved in forced prostitution.
Crimes like theft and drug charges.
© 2020 KIRO