St. Petersburg, Florida - A 35 year old Pinellas County woman who is a former prostitute says some teens can easily be lured into selling sex. She says it happened to her when she was 19 years old.
The woman who doesn't want to reveal her identity says the world's oldest profession has evolved. Felicia was the name she used as a working girl. She says, "The internet has actually helped people to be able to hide."
The images released by the Polk County Sheriff's office on Monday of men and women taking off their clothes and getting cash in return during an undercover prostitution sting gives us a small glimpse into how the internet sex business works.
Undercover detectives say they arrested 60 suspects after meeting them through websites for escorts. Prostitutes, pimps and customers were arrested through findhotescorts.com, bootytag.com and backpage.com to name a few.
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Investigators say the sex workers, both men and women post their pictures and their phone numbers on the sites offering sex for money.
Felicia says, "I didn't use the computer. I was mostly out on the streets or when I was in Vegas I was working for an escort service - so it was just usually phone calls."
Felicia was born and raised in Miami. She came from a dysfunctional family and was placed in the foster care system because her mother was on drugs. "As a child I was sexually molested from the age of 4 to 9 years old by three different men. I didn't have anyone in my life guiding me - leading me."
She adds, "From the age of 12 to 16 I ran away from home. At 16 I was out on my own."
When she was 19 though she was introduced to stripping. "I'd just been kicked out of job corp when I started working in the strip clubs because I had nowhere else to go. I didn't know where I was going to live."
A friend who was already working at a strip club in Miami asked her to come dance too and she did. During that year Felicia says she was targeted by a pimp. "He came in very smooth, very well dressed."
She says they became friends and he took her to the movies and to restaurants which made her feel special. A few months later he asked her if she wanted to travel and she jumped at the chance. "He took me from Miami, Florida to Cleveland, Ohio."
She says the night they arrived he had her change her clothes in the van. "He showed me around where we were going to be and he told me to get out of the van and he told me exactly what to do in order to make money."
She adds, "I'd spent the entire night doing exactly what he told me to do and I remember him saying that he was proud of me and that made me feel good. I had never heard anyone say that to me before."
Felicia says he eventually took her to 15 different states to work the streets. But selling herself for money was dangerous work that took a psychological toll on her. She says she worked 7 days a week and serviced 20 to 40 men a night.
Felicia says, "During that time that I was on the streets and in that life for 4 and a half years I was raped. I've had knives pulled out on me - guns pulled out on me."
Felicia says she feels for the women arrested during the Polk County Sheriff's office prostitution sting. "My heart goes out to them - I want to rescue all of them."
She points to suspects like Ashley Delawder who was five months pregnant when she was arrested and a 15 year old runaway who detectives say brought her two year son with her.
Felicia says, "The pimps are targeting young girls more and more. That's their target because they're more vulnerable. They know what to look for. They know a lot of these girls come from dysfunctional homes just from talking to them. Some girls are so broken that they just go - not realizing what they're getting themselves into."
She adds, "I can speak for them as I speak for myself. I lost myself. I was dead literally just dead and that's what you become when you're out there. It's just survival."
Felicia is a survivor. She's been off the streets for 10 years now. She's a Christian and a college student. She spends her days trying to educate others about what she's experienced so they don't have to experience what she's been through.
She says it's critical that parents are aware and educated about human trafficking to protect their children. "The younger the child is the more money the pimp will make from that child."
Tammie Fields, 10 News