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Sex trafficking in Michigan: One woman's journey

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

A Michigan woman is now dedicating her life to helping other victims of sex trafficking. She spent most of her life being sold for sex - the first time when she was just a child.

Leslie King says she fell in love with an older man when she was only 15 years old. She knew him from her old neighborhood in Grand Rapids. He promised to take care of her. At the time, she says she thought he loved her too.

"He told me I was beautiful, he told me he loved me, he wined me and dined me, he took me out he bought me clothes," said King.

King says that older man tricked her into working as a sex slave. Looking back, she realizes now that he never really loved her at all.

King says she was forced to live with several other women who were also being treated as sex slaves. Sex trafficking is different from prostitution. When women are trafficked, it's against their will, and in many cases they are forced to live with their oppressor.

In King's case, she says it wasn't the life she wanted. She says she could've tried to run but she says he threatened to kill her and members of her family if she did.

So King, now in her 50s, says she kept silent for decades. She insists she was screaming on the inside to get out of an underworld of sex and drugs, but it was only recently that she escaped. King says she spent most of her teenage and adult life being trafficked for sex.

Statewide, Leslie King is not alone. This is a bigger problem than you might think. Only recently have lawmakers made sex trafficking a top priority. But some organizations based here in Michigan say they've been working to rescue victims of this horrible trade for years.

Anne Donewald is the founder of Eve's Angels, an organization that tries to get people like Leslie King out of the sex trade industry for good, she says this problem spans across the entire state, even right here in Mid-Michigan.

Donewald says sex trafficking is modern day pimping. She insists it can happen anywhere to anyone. She says no one is safe.

Nationwide, according to U.S. Department of Justice, children are especially at risk.

Forty percent of sex trafficking cases in the U.S. involve young kids, and here in Michigan, the number one way young girls are recruited is on the internet.

Back to King, who says she is lucky to be alive and free. She says she now dedicates her life to helping other women and young girls escape the sex trade right here in Michigan.

Four female state senate members will host a bipartisan human trafficking legislative day Thursday in Lansing.

The goal is to raise awareness about modern day slavery in Michigan to discuss how they can address the problem.

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