Victims of human trafficking talk about past, future

Victims of human trafficking talk about past, future

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hands tied up with rope


by Claudia Coffey

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 25 at 12:14 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- They aren't old enough to drive, to vote and haven't even attended their senior prom, but sadly they are young victims of human trafficking.

It's estimated 10,000 children in the U.S. every year are victims of human trafficking.

And we are not talking about the problem in big cities, or kids being moved from one country to the next, we are talking about the growing issue right here in our backyard. Most recently, LMPD arrested three people for prostituting two minors out of an East Louisville spa.

Two victims here in Louisville who finally escaped after more than 20 years of captivity. And they want to share their story with the hopes other victims will step forward.

"I was that no good thing, that poor white trash girl that nobody wanted. So who would want me? At least some pimp will have me," Mary Cummins, victim of human trafficking, said.

"I was scared to death. I never knew if I was gonna get beat," Kathy Abell said.

Download WHAS11 News app: iPhone | Android

They are painful memories and stories Mary Cummins and Kathy Abell have a hard time retelling. The women, both from Louisville’s Southside were forced into a dark world many in Kentuckiana don't know even exists.

"My perpetrator found me at an ice cream truck," Cummins said.

He lived right next door. He bought her things, and made her feel special and finally he kidnapped her at the age of 15. Soon he had her working for anything that would bring in money, namely prostitution.

"I was taken out of state, under age; all over the south. I was more or less abducted and did not want to go,” Cummins said. “And he would take his helmet and beat me in the head. And when I would cry and say I wanted my momma, my momma didn't have time for me."

Abell too was kidnapped by a friend of Cummins’ pimp. She was forced to work jobs that no teen could ever imagine.

"I was a prostitute. I ran a massage parlor and when I got off work from there, I went a danced on 7th street," Abell said.

Abell's nickname was Rocky Raccoon, because her face was always so badly beaten. Once she was beaten for 12 hours, and locked in the house for four days. Finally her neighbors managed to get her out and to a hospital.

“They dropped me off at the back door of the hospital. And I just felt my way cause I couldn't see. I could only see images. I couldn't make out nothing," Abell said.

It wasn't until they were in their thirties they finally escaped. Abell escaped with a friend.

“He went and got a haircut. And I grabbed up as many clothes as I could and my kids clothes and she hid me," Abell said.

Sadly it's a story that LMPD hears over and over.  

Human trafficking is a growing problem right here in Kentuckiana; mainly because of its location. It's a problem that's only getting worse.

"We are centrally located between larger cities and our interstate systems makes it easy for these traffickers to bring girls to stop in Louisville. Set up shop for a few weeks, a few days whatever they want to do. Make their money. And when it slows down they pack up and head to the next city," Sgt. Andre Bottoms said.

Bottoms heads up the LMPD's Human Trafficking Division.

He says these traffickers target certain children and teens.

"These traffickers are pretty slick. They go to schools, they recruit girls from schools. They definitely watch the bus lines," Bottoms said.

Bottoms says once they build trust with girls,  that's when they take them and force them into prostitution, working at  massage parlors and strip clubs. One girl can bring $1,000 a day. And traffickers usually have more than one girl. One in particular had nine girls and he branded them with a hot iron.

"Some of the traffickers we know will brand a girl with a tattoo or some kind of brand. That signifies to other traffickers that this is my property," Bottoms said.

Cummins and Abell are now free of that life and are roommates. They have a similar life story but with a plan to move forward.

"I was 50-years-old and went to college," Abell said.

Cummins too embraced education and creative writing. The following is an excerpt from her book.

"Witnessing sorrow, violence and events that are unheard of. Hunger and shame always showed its face," Cummins read.

Like the message in Cummins’ book she wants others to know, there is a way out.

"There are other ways. Go to school. If you are scared, go to a shelter. They are not gonna let those guys in to bother you," Abell said.

And there is a way to help others.

"I seek change again by telling what has occurred. And never forget what can come from pain and the appreciation for the passion of life," Cummins said.

Catholic Charities and Scarlet Hope do a lot to help these women transition back into the real world. Abell and Cummins could not read or write. So these shelters will take them in and help them get back on their feet.