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Woman talks about surviving human trafficking

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Posted at 1:22 AM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-02 19:50:45-04

A human trafficking survivor shared her story at Rise Up For Children on Friday.

About 50 people came out to the Yellowstone County courthouse lawn for the event put on by Montana Operation Underground Railroad.

It's a chance to give a voice to children who have been trafficked.

According to the organization, 41% of all child trafficking has been facilitated by a family member or a caregiver.

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"I want you to just picture a nine year old girl on vacation with her dad at Disneyland," said Stephanie Anderson, trauma coach and survivor leader. "And that was me. A man walked up to the counter, where I was standing with my dad. He looked like he worked with my dad. He took my hand and he walked me down the hall. Within two minutes, my life changed forever."

Anderson says she returned to her family after this incident in California, but that person used threats to keep her from telling anyone what happened.

"And I know my parents were devastated," she said. "They didn't know how to process. They didn't know what was happening to me. They just knew something was very, very wrong."

And she continued not talking with their parents.

"And at 14, I ended up with a boyfriend who wasn't a boyfriend," Anderson said.

She said he told her parents, "If you give me guardianship I'll make sure she gets shelter. She isn't going to run away. She'll have food. She'll have everything she needs."

Stephanie was able to get away with the help of a friend.

"She came up to me at a party we were at," Anderson said.

She said her friend told her, "if you want to leave, you be here. You find a way to be here at this time and we're leaving the state."

"It was shortly after that I called my mom and dad, and I took the bus ticket home," Anderson said. "They hadn't seen me for a couple of years, like a year and a half maybe. And I was proud of coming home."

And they say everyone should be aware of human trafficking.

More information is available on the Operation Underground Railroad website.