AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – When it comes to identifying a victim of child trafficking, there is not one victim who has the same story. Perhaps similar, but they’re all different. Amber Wilson shared her story with NewsChannel 6’s Barclay Bishop.
“This is a picture of me, just before I ended up homeless,” said Amber Wilson, sex trafficked at 16 years old.
Amber Wilson was just 15-years-old and had nowhere to go. Up to that point, she tells me her world was full of sexual abuse starting as early as 3-and-a-half years old. Growing up she would move back and forth between her mother and father’s house.
“One afternoon I came home and everything was on the front porch that belonged to me in trash bags and after peering into the windows and seeing that nothing was in there, I realized that now I was alone,” said Wilson.
15-years-old and homeless. Amber spent many nights sleeping in the woods. Her days were spent begging for change at the corner store. It was there that she says a man in his 50’s started to notice her.
“One afternoon he called me over to his car and asked me if I wanted to go over to his house to get something to eat and kind of was being kind, is what I thought,” said Wilson.
Looking back, Amber says it was obvious he was grooming her. Then one day he asked to take photos of her using his Polaroid camera.
“I just kept remembering that sound of that picture coming out of that camera. You know, it just echoes in my head still today,” said Wilson.
She was frozen in fear, but the abuse she experienced as a child helped her to mentally escape every time it happened.
“You really don’t know what to do or what to say. There’s no one there to help you and so you just kind of let it happen,” said Wilson.
It didn’t take long before things progressed.
“He took me to a house where there was a gentleman there waiting for me and he was like ‘you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Just sit with him and talk with him. Or he might want you to lay in bed with him’, ” said Wilson.
Amber says she was scared every time, but she was also scared of going hungry.
“He said I didn’t have to do it, but he knew my vulnerabilities. And he knew that I needed money to buy food and be able to get a hotel, maybe for a night,” said Wilson.
Amber says she didn’t feel like a sex trafficking victim since she willingly took part. And with no one to confide in, who would she tell?
“I didn’t always know where I was whenever we would go to the places. It was at night and it was usually in neighborhoods that you didn’t really want to walk the streets, walk out the door. It might be even more dangerous than being outside,” said Wilson.
Even when she wanted to stop, she says she kept getting lured back in by false promises.
“Sometimes I didn’t get the money. He would tell me that he couldn’t pay me or that I would get it the next time,” said Wilson
One day, something clicked in her brain and everything changed.
“I was sitting on the bed and the man was fondling me and I just stood up and ran out the front door,” said Wilson.
From that moment on, she never looked back. About a week later, a police officer gave her a card with information about a program that helped her start a new life. Amber tells me her heart still grieves for those having to live the way she once did..but she has a message for all of them….
“You’re a survivor, you’re not a victim. You’re a survivor. You’re here and there is tomorrow and there’s hope in tomorrow,” said Wilson.
Our feedback on this segment has been overwhelming and many of you still have questions.
Stay tuned as we announce the date of our one-hour special on WJBF that will be airing in the next few weeks.
If you’re a human trafficking victim or have information about a potential trafficking situation:
NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Submit a tip online: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/en/report-trafficking
To report trafficking in Georgia
*Press Option #1 to report a tip to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI)
*Press Option #2 to report a child sex trafficking case directly
*Press Option #3 if you’re an adult requesting assistance from a trafficking situation
South Carolina 2022 Annual Report: Human Trafficking Task Force