"It was really awesome, and I got out (of jail), and they just realize that I was a victim and that I should have been treated like a victim first, and they should have investigated me as a victim before they tried to criminalize me," she said.
Exposed at young age
Samantha, another former prostitute, first was exposed to the sex trade before she even knew what it was. This is not her real name, as she requested that her identity be concealed.
She left her home at age 15 with her sister, "being rebels," as she put it.
Her sister began working as an escort, and Samantha paid attention, even though she didn't know the term for what she was seeing.
"I watched how she got herself ready, and she would tell me little things, a few stories. It wasn't glamorous, but I was amazed by the money. She always had a lot of money," Samantha said.
There are cases where girls or boys are kidnapped and forced into the sex trade, but in most cases they are seduced by men who make them feel loved and offer them other stability, said Maria Clara Rodriguez, the outreach and education supervisor at Kristi House, an advocacy center dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse.
"The girls don't see themselves as victims. 'No, this is my boyfriend; we are going to get married; he promised me the world.' They believe that," she said.
Once girls enter the sex industry, their average life expectancy is seven years, with homicide and AIDS being the top killers, Rodriguez said.
Samantha was 17 the first time she was paid for sex. She remembers feeling remorseful about it, but she would get pulled back in.
A friend invited her to a hotel when she was 18.
"She knew what was going to happen, but I didn't," Samantha said. "I didn't realize it until later."
Her friend, it turned out, was a recruiter for a pimp and that day left Samantha alone with a man. Samantha "felt forced" to re-enter the world of prostitution.
The drugs and the alcohol followed, and eventually Samantha herself would recruit other girls for the pimp.
She escaped that life only after she was caught in the act by authorities. Now Samantha is pregnant with a girl and wants to return to school and focus on raising her child.
Her former pimp is the father.
Sharing stories to empower
Kat Rosenblatt, an anti-human trafficking activist, began sharing her own story five years ago, when she found that children in that world could relate to her and want to get out of it.
"The issue is more serious than anyone can put a number to," Rosenblatt said. "The numbers that we have found are greater than anything that has been reported."
Rosenblatt has done outreach at truck stops, schools, jails and strip clubs, where she has found many victims of child sex trafficking who are willing to come forward and confront their situation.
Victims of sex trafficking come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, she has found, and of all races and ethnicities.
"There is no discrimination," she said. "Trafficking does not discriminate. It just exploits."
The pattern she has witnessed is one of girls who are vulnerable, because of drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse or domestic violence.
The top method for luring new girls into the sex trade is to use other children to recruit them, Rosenblatt said.
Her own story begins when she was 13 and left home with her mother to escape an abusive father. Mother and daughter moved into a hotel, where Rosenblatt was often alone while her mother worked.