January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. I didn’t want to let the month pass without telling the story of young Brianna Myers, who got herself caught up in sex trafficking before being rescued.
Brianna was a 17-year-old honor roll student at her small town high school in Washington State. When she wasn’t in class, when she wasn’t cheerleading, she was waitressing at a local diner.
The teen caught the attention of a middle-aged man, Richard, who would become a regular customer. He seemed friendly enough to the unsuspecting waitress. He plied her for personal information, about her life, her dreams, the kind of guys she liked and, importantly, when she would turn 18.
Eventually Richard made a move on the high schooler, asking if she wanted to “party” with him. She told him no. And that was that.
So she thought.
A few weeks after rejecting Richard’s proposition, Nick showed up at Brianna’s diner. “I noticed him right away,” she remembers. “He flirted with me and made me feel so special and beautiful. I’ve never been talked to like that.”
Nick invited the teen to visit him in Seattle. When her family objected, Nick persuaded Brianna to move to the bright lights and big city, where he would allow her to stay in his spare room. He suggested that she could attend college while working on the side.
But Nick didn’t have in mind an innocent little diner, like the one in which he met Brianna. He steered her to a strip club, where she spent seven hours a night as a nude dancer, where, lo and behold!, she happened to run into Richard.
“They worked on me for a year before (they) even pursued me,” Brianna recounts. Nick, it turned out, was “pimping me out,” she says, “showing me here at the strip club.” Taking the money she earned
Having beguiled Brianna into the sex trade, Nick suggested that he and the teen take an out-of-town trip to Arizona and Nevada. It is quite likely she would have been completely cut off from family and friends and forced into a life of prostitution.
That’s when the Holy Spirit intervened, I am convinced.
Brianna very well would have gone with Nick, but wanted to first return her family’s car, which she had driven to Seattle. With Nick’s assent, she arranged to have a high school friend come to Seattle and share the drive with her. The friend sensed something was amiss and, unbeknownst to Brianna, alerted her parents.
When the teen arrived at her parents’ home, they were there awaiting her with former Congresswoman Linda Smith, founder and president of Shared Hope, a national anti-trafficking organization.
Smith spoke the truth in love to Brianna, who eventually realized that Richard and Nick were sex traffickers, and that she had been ensnared by them like God knows how many other young girls like her.
Today, Brianna has joined the crusade against sex trafficking, sharing her story with lawmakers from Washington State to Washington, D.C.
Her message is one with which many, if not most of us, would agree: That sex trafficking is among the most repugnant of crimes. And that no punishment, short of the death penalty, is too severe for those, like Richard, like Nick, that prey upon the young, the impressionable and the vulnerable.