How Henrico is helping woman trafficked to West End motel for sex

Posted at 11:24 AM, Jun 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-20 11:59:34-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- You could say Brittni Crabill needs Giovanni, as much as Giovanni needs Brittni.

"He knows when I'm upset, he just wants to cuddle," Crabill said.

The dog represents freedom, and how far Crabill has come since she was arrested by Henrico Police nearly three years ago.

"Every day I wake up that I'm not in the lifestyle is something amazing," Crabill said.

For more than a decade, Crabill was a prostitute and her life was controlled by pimps.

A tattoo on her arm essentially branded her as their property.

"Some bought me, some sold me, some left me," Crabill said.

It all began just days before she turned 15, when her much older boyfriend drove her from Philadelphia to New York, and pressured her to have sex with another man for money.

Soon after, she said she would become addicted to the "lifestyle."

"How many men do you think you had as customers?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked Crabill.

"Oh my God, I knew this question was coming. Tens of thousands," Crabill responded.

We asked her how she was able to endure a lifestyle that often left her bruised, and sometimes beaten.

Crabill said she was molested be a male family member when she was very young, and that in a strange way, selling herself for sex, would often give her a feeling of power.

"In that moment I felt beautiful, I felt wanted, I felt like I mattered, and so that feeling, OK, sorry...that feeling is kind of what drove me to stay in it for so long," Crabill said.

Then came September 2015.

"We were there for maybe 22 hours before I got caught up in a sting," Crabill said.

She said her pimp at the time, Calvin Wynn, had taken her from Houston to Nebraska to Chicago and North Carolina before they ended up at a motel at the intersection of Parham Road and West Broad Street.

"He was the worst pimp that I had," Crabill said. "He was much more physically abusive, verbally abusive. If I didn't make a certain amount of money I wasn't eating."

An undercover detective arranged a date with Crabill, and both she and Wynn were arrested.

But because of a new focus on human trafficking in Henrico, police and prosecutors offered Brittni help.

"Do you feel like they saved your life?" Hipolit asked Crabill.

"Definitely," Crabill responded.

Henrico Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Feinmel oversees human trafficking cases in the county.

"I may be the first man that's treated her with respect for several years," Feinmel said.

He said since 2012 Henrico prosecuted 152 people for charges related to pandering and sex trafficking.

Feinmel said Henrico's unique geographic position: being centrally located, near Washington D.C., and at the intersection of two major interstates, makes it a prime spot for sex trafficking.

"I think the word is out that Richmond is a good place to make money," Feinmel said.

While her pimp was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to 10 years in prison, Henrico dropped the charges against Crabill and found a program for human trafficking victims in her hometown for her to attend.

But she said she only lasted 30 days before the lifestyle beckoned.

"I called an old pimp I used to have, went back started working, and went to Atlanta got locked up, and Henrico flew an officer all the way from Henrico to Atlanta, Georgia to get me and fly me back," Crabill said.

At that point, Henrico put an ankle monitor on her, and sent her to a year-long program in Williamsburg.

Now, she's back living in the Richmond area.

And while she said she still has trouble holding a job due to anxiety, she hoped to ultimately become an advocate for sex trafficking victims to spread awareness and help others get a second chance.

"I used to believe I was only good for laying on my back, and I was only good for making somebody else rich, and I realized that if I could put that same effort and energy into believing I could be something that nobody ever thought I could, I can," Crabill said.

Since Henrico started targeting human trafficking operations five years ago, they partnered with Bon Secours to get sex trafficking victims free medical care for a year, and they worked with Safe Harbor to create a house where sex trafficking victims can live while they work toward transitioning back into society.

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