A young woman says she was sex trafficked as a teenager – and opened up about her harrowing ordeal.
Allison Heagle, 20, claims she was 15 when she was groomed by an older man in Colorado, America.
She says she was sex trafficked from the ages of 15 to 18 and now she's sharing her story in hopes that it will help others.
"It drove me crazy, I lost every sense of who I was and what I knew," she told the Daily Star.
"I genuinely thought I lost my mind, I couldn't form full sentences and was always on high alert, everything became a threat.
"In simple terms, it was very very traumatic, I was in a constant state of paralysing fear, and I honestly hit a point where I just wanted to die."
Allison claims that she was both traded and sold for sex and was forced to be under the influence of drugs so she wouldn't put up a fight.
She says the abuse took place over three years in both Colorado and Arizona and thought she'd never be able to escape.
"I was groomed by an older man who had people follow me when I moved to Arizona, where he is originally from, and then again groomed me in Arizona and got ahold of me once again," she explained.
Allison says she met her trafficker at her work as he was friends with one of her colleagues.
She had assumed that he was 21, the same age as her colleague, but was later told he was in fact 28.
The first day they hung out she claims he plied her with alcohol and took her back to his parent's house.
"By the time we were actually at his house, he snuck me through his window. Even though he was an adult, his dad was home and he didn't want him to know he was bringing me home," Allison explained.
"I could barely walk I was so drunk… In the moment all I remembered was coming to with my clothing off and puke everywhere.
"He goes 'Just so you know I'm 28 years old' and I politely asked if I could go back to work. That is when he got his hold on me."
Allison was under her captor's spell for three whole years and she said she eventually developed Stockholm syndrome.
This was spurred on by the fact that she was allegedly being drugged on a daily basis.
"They gaslit me and I developed a trauma bond with my traffickers, or what’s also known sometimes as Stockholm syndrome," she said.
"As I said previously I was in a constant state of fear, so even when I did get away the only consistent thing that I knew was my traffickers so I would always return."
Allison would also take the fall for different crimes her trafficker was involved in, with her second mugshot being taken after she "took the blame" for a variety of things he stole.
She explained: "He was involved in a variety of crimes and would force me to be present or somehow involve me. Eventually, I would take the charges to try and get away from him."
Allison's friends initially tried to help her escape their evil clutches but she says they eventually gave up.
"They just wrote it off as me and my drug addiction. My family mostly gave up, but my parents never stopped looking for me or hoping I would just come home," Allison explained.
"They always had their door open to me. My mum would screenshot any photo I posted online and would try to figure out where I was based on that photo."
The years of torment were finally over for Allison when someone came to install cameras in an Airbnb where Allison was being held captive.
At first, he had thought Allison was someone's daughter but soon cottoned on to the situation.
"He slipped me their phone number and told me to text them 'popcorn' and my address if I ever needed him," she told us.
"I texted only a few days later saying 'Thank you for that popcorn it really saved my life yesterday.'"
Thankfully the man helped Allison escape and it couldn't have come any sooner, as she says was just days away from being taken to Mexico where she believes she would have been killed soon after.
She explained: "They were speaking in front of me about what they were going to do and being sent to Mexico or being killed were my two options.
"Not that I had a choice. They were going to decide within an hour of me leaving but I feared they would kill me no matter what."
Allison says she has told the courts about what she went through but she remains wary of police so will not be making further reports.
"I don’t trust law enforcement with it because of the fact that some of the law enforcement is involved," she said.
"I was offered protective custody from a detective when I first escaped but I would’ve had to lose my family and I couldn’t do that."
Two years have now passed since her escape and Allison has turned to God to help herself heal. She has finally found peace and happiness, which she thought she'd never experience again.
"I have gone through a lot of healing, and I’m back at home with my family and dogs," she said.
"Though I still have to deal with a lot of what I went through, I know that my God is bigger and that I am safe. I couldn’t be happier."
Now Allison works to help bring awareness to human trafficking and help others spot the signs.
She said that while it might not always be easy to spot a human trafficker, there are a few key things to look out for.
"Usually the person grooming you is a man but it can be a woman and they offer things you don’t have and may need [such as] money, drugs, cars, a place to live and a studio," she explained.
"They promise you a very extravagant life and deliver quite literally hell in turn. The website humantraffickinghotline.org explains a lot of this in great detail as well as give a number that can be called or texted at any time for help or used to help if someone is in a situation they’re unsure of."
The same website also provides information on how to notice whether someone is being trafficked but Allison shared important things everyone should look for.
"Many are already in situations that make them more vulnerable, such as an addict, foster child or a homeless person," she explained.
"Everyone responds differently but usually someone being trafficked is underweight, looks pretty lifeless in their eyes with bags under them, they have bruises, are constantly with a man most of the time or woman and if they leave their side the victim will speak more than when they’re present."
While other people may respond differently to a traumatic situation like this, this was Allison's personal experience.
She went on: "Human trafficking isn’t what many think. A trafficker may be any man, woman, race, sexuality or age.
"Very few realise how many around us on the streets are suffering in silence, how many go missing under our noses, how many are screaming to be heard.
"It’s time we start speaking up and spreading awareness on how serious the problem is. If we don’t talk about it, it’ll never get better."
If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 08 08 16 89 111 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.
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