This is the story of Brittanee Drexel.
In April 2009, 17-year old Brittanee, from upstate New York went against her parents’ wishes and traveled with friends to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for Spring Break.
A grainy, black-and-white video, taken from a motel security camera is the last known footage of Brittanee before she disappeared onto the streets.
Brittanee is dead, although her body has yet to be found.
This conclusion came from jailhouse confessions and years of tirelessly piecing together information and collaborating witness accounts.
Brittanee is believed to have met up with 16-year old Da’Shaun Taylor, then was taken to McClellanville, South Carolina, where he introduced her to another friend.
He and that friend then proceeded to “trick her out” to other friends. She was kept in a “stash house,” where violent street gangs keep their drugs and weapons. She was repeatedly raped, pistol whipped, and finally, when the publicity surrounding her disappearance was heating up, she was shot and her body was dumped in a marshy pond in McClellanville, where she was consumed by the alligators that inhabit the area.
Seventeen-year old Brittanee had fallen victim to human sex traffickers.
SharedHope.org defines sex trafficking as occurring when someone uses force, fraud, or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation lists human sex trafficking as the fastest growing business of organized crime and the third largest criminal business in the world.
Although comprehensive research to document the number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking, an estimated 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.6 The majority of these victims are runaway or thrown-away youths who live on the streets and become victims of prostitution.7 These children generally come from homes where they have been abused or from families who have abandoned them. Often, they become involved in prostitution to support themselves financially or to get the things they feel they need or want (like drugs).
Other young people are recruited into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from parents, or through deceptive agreements between parents and traffickers. Once these children become involved in prostitution, they often are forced to travel far from their homes and, as a result, are isolated from their friends and family. Few children in this situation can develop new relationships with peers or adults other than the person victimizing them. The lifestyle of such youths revolves around violence, forced drug use, and constant threats.8
This is slavery, and it targets the young and vulnerable.
For young girls, the average age of those affected is between 12- and 16-years old, although it’s not uncommon at any age.
For boys and transgendered youth, the FBI reports that the average age that they first fall into the life is between 11- and 13-years old.
The youth are being targeted through social media, in clubs, through contacts in their own neighborhoods and schools.
So prevalent and shocking is the problem that different organizations around the country are beginning to step forward with hopes of stamping it out in our lifetime.
The Palmetto Family Council, in South Carolina is a non-profit organization, aligned with Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. They have taken up the cause of combatting human sex trafficking.
Erik Corcoran, a former staffer for Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and current Director of Coalitions for Palmetto Family is leading the charge to gather together faith leaders, teachers, and students across South Carolina to work as a unified movement in eradicating the trade.
Says Corcoran, “We will be working with colleges like Charleston Southern University in order to build a grassroots team of activists who will educate and exhort our legislators concerning the need to eradicate this evil trade from our state. The office of the Attorney General reported that there were over 155 individuals who were trafficked in 2015. (That is a low estimate due to the difficulty of tracking the issue). Together we will work with legislators to stiffen penalties for involvement with trafficking, spread awareness concerning the prevalence of the issue and protect children and teenagers from it.”
They are calling this coalition the Nehemiah Network and are looking for 1,000 members by the new year, to prepare for the new legislative session.
I’m writing about this now out of a parent’s heart. I remember the news reports when young Brittanee disappeared. I remember the pleas of her family to have her returned to them. The details of Brittanee’s horrifying end were just released to the press last week, and my heart was broken all over again for her parents.
And then I got mad.
The realities are, Brittanee Drexel is just one story out of many.
There are kids walking or fleeing from their homes and into the dark arms of the streets. Some are being plucked away against their will to meet the same fate.
This is a world where human life is no longer valued. Is it any wonder that in this spiritual wasteland that someone would have to pay a price? That price is being taken out on the bodies of our children.
While liberal politicians argue for moral relativism, predators wait with bated breath and ill intent.
Meanwhile, a parent is having another sleepless night, wondering where her child is, and a young person just wants to go home, or at least to feel safe again.
Too often, the shame of what they’ve done will keep those sold in the sex trafficking trade from trying to get help. There needs to be a safe place for them to turn, free from judgment and abounding in grace.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18 NLT
Annie Lobert actually has a gut-wrenching, compelling testimony of being drawn into the sex industry and how she escaped and turned something ugly into something positive and freeing.
If you have young children, especially if you’re a dad with young daughters, take the 14 minutes out of your day to watch this testimony.
Then hug your kids a little tighter tonight, because somewhere, another parent’s arms are empty and their heart is broken.