When she was sixteen, Aubrey Lloyd ran away from an abusive and dysfunctional home in Colorado Springs. But where she ended up was arguably worse: Lloyd was drugged, raped and then forced to work as a prostitute. On Thursday at the Capitol, she was the last speaker at an afternoon rally for Human Trafficking Advocacy Day, and she received a standing ovation for her story of survival and redemption.
"Yes, human trafficking is horrible and gritty and disgusting," she said. "But let's focus on the light."
The event was organized by the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado, which invited anti-trafficking organizations from around Colorado to set up booths at the Capitol and talk to lawmakers. The afternoon rally featured an impressive lineup of speakers, including U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Denver Police Chief Robert White.
Human trafficking, which most often takes the form of forced prostitution or forced labor, "is all around us and we don't know it," Walsh said. Suthers called it "a dark and evil topic" and White pledged that the Denver police will "continue to attack human trafficking and bring an end to this modern-day slavery."
But it was Lloyd whose story truly illustrated the horror of human trafficking. She was an honor-roll student whose home life was rife with abuse and conflict when another teenager she thought was a friend offered her a place to stay. In reality, Lloyd said, the friend was a recruiter. A man she thought was the boyfriend of a friend's mother turned out to be a pimp who asked Lloyd to join his escort service. When she refused, she was drugged and raped. The pimp, she said, told her that was the last time she'd say "no" to him.
"I was sold and sold and sold," Lloyd said.
When she finally escaped with the help of a client, Lloyd said she was troubled. Some people didn't comprehend what she'd been through; they thought it was her choice. Even Lloyd didn't understand that she was a victim. "For seventeen years, I chose not to tell my story," she said. It wasn't until she went to a human trafficking task force meeting six years ago that she said she was truly "educated about my own victimization."
Lloyd's younger sister was also recruited and was sold by a different pimp all over the country. By the time Lloyd was able to find her and bring her home, she said her sister was so addicted and traumatized that she took her own life at the age of sixteen.
Lloyd has gone on to become an advocate and counselor for other victims, including at a "safe home" for underage girls in southern Colorado called Sarah's Home. Lloyd graduated from high school, went to college and eventually earned her master's degree. She's newly married and now living in Indiana, where she continues to work with trafficking victims.
"Together, let's rewrite a whole bunch of other stories," she said at the rally.
State Representative Beth McCann is sponsoring a bill to shore up Colorado's anti-human trafficking law, which was first passed in 2006. If this year's bill passes, McCann says, "we expect we will see more successful prosecutions of human trafficking here in Colorado."
Watch a Fox 21 report on Lloyd below.
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