A young Mexican advocate is speaking out against human trafficking.
Karla Jacinto, 20, told CNN she was targeted by a trafficker when she was 12 years old. She says she had a dysfunctional family, and the man lured her with money, gifts and an expensive car.
The trafficker convinced her to go to Tenancingo, a town known for sex trafficking rings. Girls are frequently taken there before being forced into prostitution. Although the town has a population of less than 13,000, five of the 10 most wanted human traffickers are from Tenancingo.
"That's what the town does," said Susan Coppedge, the U.S. State Department's ambassador at large to combat human trafficking. "That is their industry. And yet in smaller, rural communities the young girls don't have any idea that this is what the town's reputation is, so they are not suspicious of the men who come from there. They think they have got a great future with this person. They think they love and it is the same story of recruitment every time."
Eventually, she was taken to Guadalajara to work as a prostitute, the first of several cities. Jacinto was tortured and abused by pimps, clients and police officers.
"I thought they were disgusting," Jacinto remarked of the policemen. "There were girls who were crying. They told the officers they were minors and nobody paid attention."
At age 16, she was rescued during an anti-trafficking operation. She estimates she was raped about 43,200 times over the four years she was forced into human trafficking.
She is now an advocate against human trafficking. Jacinto told her story to Pope Francis and U.S. Congress. Her testimony was used as evidence in support for H.R. 515, which mandates U.S. authorities to share information about child sex offenders when they attempt to travel overseas.
"It is up to us, both governments and nongovernment organizations to work together to prevent this crime, punish those who commit them, to look and rescue for those who are already caught in the web, and to provide the care necessary for their healing and reintegration to a healthy society," stated Jacinto in testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
"Not one person can do it by himself or herself."