Criminalizing the Victim

Laura Berte’s daughter Alexandrea (Allie), has been missing since July.  After several requests, Alexandrea was placed on the missing persons national database. She was found when pulled over in Tennessee for a traffic stop.  When troopers ran her name, they discovered she was on a national missing persons list.  However, “Allie” Berte also had three other young women in the car along with a small amount of marijuana, several gift cards and cell phones.

The next thing you know, Laura Berte is getting word that her daughter is being charged federally for sex crimes. Laura found her daughter on backpage.com.  Within five weeks, her daughter had been advertised for sex in at least as many states.

“If this happened to me, it can happen to anybody,” said Laura Berte.  “It really can.  I want parents to be aware of the signs.  I was not aware of the risk that Allie was at.  I did not realize that her childhood traumas made her a perfect target to be a victim of human trafficking.  I thought she was recovering, and I was wrong.  People need to be aware that this is happening.”

Local experts say human trafficking is a real issue in North Carolina.  It is one of the top ten states for human trafficking with contributing factors such as poverty and location.  North Carolina does not see ‘pimping’ as a felony, which means there is a sentence of only get about 120 days in jail.  However, there are no age restrictions on prostitution.  So, even if a minor gets arrested for prostitution, they could serve time as an adult.  Experts say that’s a fault within the system since minors would clearly be trafficking victims.

“It is scary and there’s a perception out there—in this community, in society—that girls of this age are making the choice,” said Laura Berte.  “You know, that needs to be changed.  My daughter would have never chosen this as a career.  And I just feel there are many, many girls out there that are in similar circumstances that are high risk environments that can be prey.”

Learn more at Michelle Li’s WECT News article: Wilmington high schooler charged in sex ring.

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