A girl who ran away from home at 15 and was sold for sex online has opened up about her experience.
The girl, who ABC News' "Nightline" refers to as "Natalie," ran away from her parents' home at the age of 15 because she was worried how they would react to a bad grade she got at school. "I didn't want them to ... be disappointed ... I had told all my friends that I was going to run away," Natalie told "Nightline."
Natalie took a bus to Seattle, where she became friends with an older girl while staying in a youth shelter. Natalie says the girl was familiar with the Seattle area and told her that the two of them could hang out.
Soon, Natalie and her older friend were walking on the highway, and men would reportedly pick them up, sleeping with the older girl while Natalie sat in the back seat. "A lot of them would ask if they could sleep with me and she would tell them 'no,' until a pimp picked us up and then took us to his house," said Natalie.
At the house, the man allegedly raped Natalie. "And then after that, they cut all my hair off and then put me in some really skimpy clothes and taught me how to walk in heels," she said.
Becoming scared, Natalie found an opportunity to run out of the house and found a police officer who called her mother.
After returning home, other students at school found out about what had happened to her, and she was bullied and called names. Feeling like she couldn't take the bullying, she ran away again, still 15, this time with the help of the same older friend from Seattle.
The older girl introduced her to Baruti Hopson, 32, who began posting her picture on the website Backpage. Backpage is similar to Craigslist, but with an adult services section where users can offer escorts, some of whom end up being underage children forced into sex work, reports The New York Times.
Natalie estimates she was paid for sex more than 100 times in the time that was being held by Hopson, and says he slept by the front door to make sure she couldn't escape.
Eventually, one of Natalie's ads was targeted in a police sting, and she was rescued by police. Natalie, now 21, testified against Hopson, who was sentenced to 26 years in prison for promoting the commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
Natalie says her experience also stole part of her high school years. "I’ve never had a prom ... All my friends’ pictures on Facebook ... They have memories ... It makes me a little bitter."