Editor's note: This report contains accounts of rape, violence and other disturbing events.

Courtsey of Frank Morris: NPR contributor - Recorded 7-13-16 and broadcast on All Things Considered

Sam Tahour, district manager for Travel Centers of America, stands next to a travel plaza in Oak Grove, Mo. Tahour was trained as part of a new effort to identify and stop sex trafficking at truck stops.
Frank Morris/KCUR

Sex trafficking wasn't a major concern in the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. If you were a prostitute, the thinking went, it was your choice.

Jacobs thought that too, right up until she came to, on the lot of a dark truck stop one night. She says she had asked a friendly-seeming man for a ride home that afternoon.

Jacobs says he gave her something to drink in an old McDonald's cup, and drugged her. As she was waking up the man announced that he was a pimp. Her pimp.

"I kind of laughed at him, and I said, 'Oh, that's great, but I'm not that kind of girl,' " Jacobs remembers. "And I tried to get out of the car, and he pulled me back in by my hair, beat me, and he said, 'No, b****, I didn't ask you. This is what it is. I own you now. You're going to sleep with this man in this truck, and he's going to give me the money to get to Chicago.' "

Judge Mary McDonough addresses the audience during

Judge Mary McDonough addresses the audience during a panel discussion on human trafficking on Monday at First Presbyterian Church of Newark.(Photo: SAQUAN STIMPSON/SPECIAL TO THE NEWS JOURNAL)

, The News Journal9:34 p.m. EDT June 27, 2016

 

Most people in Delaware don't think there's a human trafficking problem in the state – Mary McDonough didn't think so either, until she discovered it in her courtroom.

She now heads a special human trafficking program in the Court of Common Pleas that began four years ago and has had over 100 people go through it.

On Monday night, McDonough told a crowd of about 40 gathered at the First Presbyterian Church of Newark about the program and the larger issue of trafficking in Delaware. The League of Women Voters and Prison Ministries of Delaware organized the event.

The issue of human trafficking has been slowly gaining awareness in the First State over the last few years – a bill specifically addressing it passed in 2014 and a special commission has been named to work toward further combating it.

Many of those who are on the front line of that battle were on a panel at the church on Monday.

"It happens in every single county," said Yolanda Schlabach, founder of an organization dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking called Zoe Ministries. She is based in Sussex County, but the issue pervades all three counties in the state and often follows the major highways that cut through it, she said.With the issue of human trafficking, society is today where it was 20 years ago on domestic violence, McDonough said.

"I think we need a paradigm shift," she said, explaining that, often, the victim ends up getting blamed.

From the beginning of 2012 to April of this year, 71 percent of arrests related to prostitution were made against the prostituted person, McDonough said. Twenty four percent were against the "Johns" and just 5 percent were against the pimps, or traffickers.

"We need much more awareness of the problem of human trafficking," McDonough said.

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