I have to admit that before producer Kim Kennedy and I started working on this series, I didn't give much thought to the problem of human trafficking. The Klaas Kids Foundation for missing children calls human trafficking America's "new dirty little secret."
But to me, it seemed like one of those crimes I could distance myself from. Tragic, yes, but far removed from my life here in the United States. It was something that happened overseas, but not here, not in my community, not to U.S. citizens, not to American children.
But when I met Tyamba, all of those assumptions were shattered. Here was a good kid, an American girl with a mom who adores her, who somehow got drawn into the very real world of human trafficking, just miles from where I live.
It started as an all-too-familiar story: Tyamba, a promising, gifted child, started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and ended up running away from home. She met a seemingly kind stranger who promised to take care of her, and ended up forcing her to do things no 13-year-old girl should ever have to contemplate. And as Tyamba was casually traded from pimp to pimp, her mother, who never gave up looking for her, finally tracked her down.
Tyamba is home safe now, still haunted by those months in captivity. As I told her and her mother, no one would blame them if they never wanted to speak of that horrible period in their lives ever again. But instead, they're determined to discuss it, and to wake up people like me, who had no idea that human trafficking could hit so close to home. I'm grateful, and somewhat amazed, by their strength. Tyamba has even told her story to other kids in school.
And there are so many other Tyambas out there...
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