Caution: Mature content. Not appropriate for children.
Stephanie's mom worked and went to school full-time. Her stepfather was deployed to Iraq. "So, there really was no one at home," she recounts.
Her life took a dangerous turn after she met a "nice, cute guy" at a party. Stephanie was 12 at the time.
"He was older, which was exciting," she said. "That was cool. We talked throughout the whole party."
And then she kept seeing him everywhere — even at the Starbucks up the street from her house.
"I thought, maybe this is like fate — a little knight in shining armor," Stephanie said. "Each time he came up to talk to me, I pretended I didn't know him. I was a straight-A student, went to youth retreats, church and everything — I didn't want people to know I actually went to a party with alcohol and stuff like that."
Eventually, they did start talking. And then they began dating. He took her out shopping and to really nice restaurants.
One day after they began dating he said, "I owe him."
"I started dancing in strip clubs for him and skipping school. I'd take the bus to school and as soon as I got off I'd leave to go meet him down the street. One night it escalated to more than just the strip club. He threw me outside in the freezing cold and said I have to come back with a certain amount of money or I could just freeze. It went on for a long time. I ended up addicted to different drugs and drinking alcohol almost every day. Finally one day the police picked me up and took me home."
But that was just the beginning of what would become Stephanie's quest for her life: Her journey out of sex-trafficking.
To learn more about Stephanie’s story, look for the documentary, Chosen, under "How to Get Involved."
Stephanie's story originally appeared in the CitizenLink Daily Email update on March 28, 2014.