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Teen sex trafficking survivor: Rape was so violent, I just couldn’t work anymore

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Posted at 11:42 PM, Jul 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-04 00:04:45-04

MESA, Ariz. — Just 14 years old. That’s how young kids typically are in Arizona when they are forced into the sex trade.

But for Lakeya Shumate, it started even earlier. She was just 13.

“I was sexually trafficked and I dealt with pimps – women pimps, men pimps. I dealt with being beaten. I dealt with being raped,” Shumate said.

KPHO/KTVK reports that after running away from home, Shumate said she was taken to a hotel by an older boy and sold to a pimp for “$20 and some crack.” From there, she felt trapped.

“Pimps have this thing – it’s like handcuffs without the handcuffs on,” she said. “It became a ‘normal’ for me, so I couldn’t get used to real life. Every time I would get a reality check, I would run right back to this fantasy world.”

Shumate said she got addicted to the lifestyle; to the cars and the clothes and the attention. But the fantasy started to fall apart after a traumatic incident.

“I got into a car with a john or whatever, and I ended up getting raped. After that incident, it was so violent, I just couldn’t take working the streets anymore,” she said.

Shumate, from Georgia, escaped the sex trade for good at age 18 and started a nonprofit organization called “The Chosen Ones” with her mother, Topizia Ivey.

“We want to be that support system to those that don’t have support,” Ivey said.

The two shared their story Tuesday at a conference of victim advocates, police, and court services professionals in Mesa. The event, called JuST First Response (JuST is short for Juvenile Sex Trafficking), is designed to help professionals in various fields better respond to young victims of sex trafficking.

Organizers with Shared Hope International say there is a “growing demand for sex with young children” that is “fueled by a glorification of pimping and normalization of the commercial sex industry.” The conference includes 20 workshops over two days, including ways pimps are using social media to groom victims, and ways law enforcement can partner with non-governmental organizations to conduct undercover online stings.

Experts say teens that frequently run away from home, like Shumate did, are at a higher risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking. Other warning signs include having close ties with an older boyfriend, drug use, and previous contact with the juvenile justice system.

Ivey suggested doing an internet search on your child’s phone number to see if it’s linked to ads for sex.

“I found some information out just by putting my daughter’s phone number in a Google search,” she said.