Warning from Iowa Mom

It usually takes an arrest to pull a teenager out of the horrors of sex trafficking, and sometimes even that’s not enough, a survivor’s mother said.

Ruth Buckels of rural Story County, Iowa, took on a 16-year-old foster care daughter in 2008, knowing nothing about her past. After a phone call from a Cook County prosecutor, the pieces began coming together. Buckels’ daughter, whom she identified only as Brittany, had been forced into sex trafficking in Chicago.

Now well into her 20s, Brittany still lives with the nightmares of what happened to her, according to Buckels, who adopted her when she turned 18. Dating is tough because Brittany is afraid of being touched. She also flunked out of college because she couldn’t go to class for fear someone would look like one of her traffickers. Parenting Brittany was hard, Buckels said, because she had to get used to the teenage girl locking herself in a bathroom, staying up all night, changing her appearance almost daily and lying as that was what she had to do to stay alive as a victim of trafficking.

Brittany never knew someone could love her unconditionally. “I claim you,” Buckels would tell her. “I value you. I love you. You’re mine.”

Buckels says, “I’ve gotten death threats. I’ve been told to shut up.” But she continues to speak around the country about her adopted daughter’s experience, telling parents they need to open up if they suspect their children may be victims.

Learn more at Brian Wellner’s Quad-City Times article: Iowa mom warns of sex trafficking.

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