No matter what you call it – prostitution, sex slavery – it victimizes women. As Ramsey County attorney John Choi closes the door on a big family-operated sex trafficking case this week that sent one man to prison for 40 years, a victim of the ring is breaking her silence for the first time, her face concealed to protect her identity.
"I don't think I'll ever be completely healed," she said. "I'm afraid. I've seen him a couple times. My heart starts racing and I am fearful."
She's fearful, knowing the man who put her through an excruciating time is free to roam the streets.
"I was abused, mentally emotionally and physically and I was controlled to a point where I didn't know what I was worth. He made me feel lower than low."
She was forced into prostitution for years at the hands of Robert James Washington, who pled guilty to second-degree sex trafficking in September. He is the uncle of brothers Otis and Antonio Washington, both involved in the ring. A Ramsey County judge sentenced the brothers to 40 and 36 years in prison, but Robert Washington's sentence was a slap on the wrist to the woman who has a lifetime of recovery ahead of her – he got 12 ½ years probation and community service.
"He's been doing it a lot longer, I'm sure he's the one that taught them how to do this.
07:11 he's not done. He's going to keep doing what he's been doing for the last 30 years. For him it was a little bump in the road," she said.
"I never knew what I was going to do wrong, I was always afraid, there was fights every single day, it was never ending, it was really scary."
Vendita Carter, founder of Breaking Free, and organization dedicated to helping women escape sex slavery, believes the outcome of the Washington case is bittersweet.
"As long as he's still out there walking around and breathing. They can get hurt," Carter said.
"You give one person 40 years, another 36 years and this person gets off. Why is that? Something I have to talk to John Choi about -- I really want to understand that," Carter added.
Choi said the range in sentences are due to a number of factors, including criminal history and number of victims proven in court.
"The ones who were profiting off this land is squarely on the two brothers," Choi said.
Not Robert nor another uncle involved, Calvin Ray, were involved.
Either way, it all comes with a price, and this survivor has the scars to prove it.
"There are scars, you know -- inside. I don't trust like I used to trust. My relationship now will never be the way it's supposed to be because I still have that part of me that's still afraid and still worried, and just broke," she said.
While she has much to overcome, she is working and is about to begin school again. If you or anyone you know needs help escaping sex trafficking, you can call Breaking Free at 651-645-6557 or visit them at their website, http://www.breakingfree.net.