Sex Trafficking Survivor Has a Message You Need to Hear
How do we keep kids safe in era inundated with chat rooms, apps to video call strangers, and online bullying? These innovative social platforms almost cost 13-year-old Alicia Kozakiewicz her life. After being groomed by a seemingly friendly man online for eight months, Alicia decided it was time to meet him. Little did she know that she would be taken captive, chained in a basement, beaten, shackled, and raped for four traumatizing days. In a recent video from the AFA-CWA, Alicia has spoken out about her heartbreaking experience – and explains what you can do to help victims of sex trafficking.
Finding Her Voice
As a shy girl, Alicia instantly found solace and companionship online. When there was a screen between herself and others, she felt much more comfortable. She soon began to connect with mutual friends of mutual friends, quickly expanding her social network. As is the case for many teens, Alicia believed more was better when it came to online friends.
Alicia was on top of the world, believing that she had finally found her voice. She could now express herself, overcoming the childhood introversion had only grown worse with the awkwardness of budding adolescence. She wasn’t being bullied or harassed online, but she was being groomed – without her knowledge or consent.
Grooming And Tragedy
Grooming occurs when a perpetrator identifies potential victims, gains their trust, and breaks down their defenses
For eight months, 38-year-old Scott Tyree from Virginia patiently cultivated an online friendship with Alicia. The two grew so close that it seemed natural to meet in-person, which is precisely the goal of grooming. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, grooming occurs when a perpetrator identifies potential victims, gains their trust, and breaks down their defenses. It helps them “gain access to the victim, and sets up secrecy so that the crime is less likely to be discovered.”
Tyree drove to Alicia’s home, and she stepped out to say “hi” in between her family’s dinner and dessert. Before she knew what was happening, she was in the backseat of his car, and he was squeezing her hand so tightly that she thought it was broken.
Although panicked, Alicia tried to keep track of their location by reading the road signs. But soon, the signs became unfamiliar. They approached a manned toll booth – a glimmer of hope. Alicia prayed that the toll collector would see the hysterical young girl in the backseat and at least ask some questions. Instead, money was exchanged without a word and Tyree drove on.
The Unlikely Rescue
In fact, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in sex slavery globally, many of them children.
At that point, Alicia believed that she would die unless her parents immediately launched a comprehensive search, which they did. Meanwhile, Tyree live stream broadcasted his horrific crimes against Alicia, who remained shackled in his basement without food or water. Fortunately, an anonymous Floridian recognized Alicia from news of a missing person and tipped off the FBI, who then conducted a successful raid. Alicia was saved!
Unfortunately, there are many children bought, sold, and abducted into sex slavery every year who are never rescued. In fact, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in sex slavery globally, many of them children. Freeing these victims is the human rights cause of our generation.
The Survivor Speaks Out
She encourages transportation workers, especially flight attendants, to be on the lookout for abused and traffic children.
Alicia is leveraging her atrocious experience into powerful activism, speaking out for children who have been abducted but not yet rescued. She encourages transportation workers, especially flight attendants, to be on the lookout for abused and traffic children. Because children are bought and sold into sex trafficking, they are frequently transported on planes. This travel time is one of their only chances to be saved. Yet many child victims skirt by unnoticed.
Whatever your job, keep your eyes peeled to help these young, innocent victims. Who knows? You just might be God’s hands and feet in the life of a sex trafficking victim.