Lindsay was a 21-year-old woman, living in Maryland, and doing things that most 21-year-olds would do; working, talking to friends, going on dates, etc. When she was asked out by a friend, Daniel Burton, she accepted, not imagining that this night would turn her life from a night with a friend to a living nightmare. Burton faked an emergency call to lure Lindsay back to a hotel room, where he seized her cell phone, using physical violence and manipulation to persuade her to cooperate, and began selling her for sex in cities all along the East Coast. In 2012, she was arrested for prostitution in South Carolina.
Savannah was living in a psychiatric unit in Pennsylvania when another patient offered to connect her with a man who could get her money while she was living there. After she was discharged, she spent more time with him—he took her travelling and bought her gifts, building her trust. Soon, this man that she trusted told her that she then owed him for all he’s done for her, and sold her into sex trafficking.
The stories of Lindsay and Savannah are not uncommon in South Carolina, but they are preventable. Traffickers are sneaky and manipulative, but they are not invincible. Boosting information, like the National Human Trafficking Hotline and other crisis centers resources, can help make potential victims aware of the signs. Sharing signs that victims might exhibit can help civilians and bystanders to recognize a trafficking victim and alert the proper authorities. We can make a difference.
Traffickers are sneaky and manipulative, but they are not invincible.
While these stories are not uncommon, they are also not the defining factors of these women’s lives. After her arrest, she spoke to law enforcement about her traumatic experience and was able to utilize resources that offered her support and a place to stay while she healed. Today, she is a manager and a mother. Savannah’s life goal is to bring awareness to what she went through, and fights so that other people will never have to experience what she did. She works with task forces by taking action—going to the streets and providing resources to suspected trafficking victims. While many stories do not end so happily, it is important to highlight the ones that do to show victims that there is hope.
Written by Julia Lesko