Fighting against sex trafficking, a survivor shares her story

Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 5:17 PM CST
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In a recent study done by Creighton University called the Human Trafficking Initiative, alarming details were unveiled as to where sex trafficking "hot spots" have been identified here in the Metro.

Statistics were gathered off an Omaha classifieds website called Backpage. Clicks, hits, wording and demographics were all recorded to come up with a map showcasing where sex trafficking is most concentrated.

The map shows that there is a small area of concern in the Old Market. Analyzers attribute this to a lot of tourism – a lot of people visiting from out of state.

The second area of concern is Council Bluffs. Experts suggest this likely has a lot to do with the casinos, again, attracting out-of-towners with disposable income.

One of the largest areas of concern is West Omaha, a place dominated by white, affluent men.

Anna Brewer, a former FBI Special Agent, has spent a lot of time investigating sex-trafficking in the Metro. She recently joined the board for Magdalene Omaha - a safe haven for sex-trafficking victims.

She decided to get involved because she saw first-hand what kind of impact this lifestyle has on a victim.

"But I'm also fed up with the buyer and the consumer, and the fact that those people live among us, yet they think they go unnoticed,” Brewer said. “And that's just not tolerated, anymore. We need to have a call to action to stop this. So no buyers, no trafficking."

That's what Craig Loya, the board president for Magdalene Omaha, is trying to accomplish. His goal is to build a community of women who have survived this very crime.

"The community not only transforms the lives of the women who are survivors, but the women who are survivors, transform communities, and help us all to challenge a culture that fosters different forms of addiction and that tolerates different forms of violence against women,” said Loya.

But what does that violence against women look like? What does a day in the life of a sex-trafficking victim look like?

Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell is a Victim Advocate in the Sarpy County Attorney’s Office.

"I am also a survivor of sex trafficking,” Yodogawa-Campbell said.

Her story starts as a child.

"I wasn't sure who I was, didn't really like myself, always trying to fit in."

Low self-esteem had set her up for a string of unhealthy relationships – abusive, at best.

"It led me to what would ultimately be my trafficker, which was then, somebody I was dating at the time."

No two days were ever the same, with her trafficker.

"Just because some days you could go through laughing and joking around, having a good time, relaxed, for the most part, and nothing would ever happen."

But because she was able to work full time, it was “pay day” she dreaded most.

"That was when things would get really intense, because it was very common for him to take all of my money from my paycheck, and I would have to do certain things in order to earn the money back."

It wasn't just her money he would take. Her trafficker started making money off of her.

She said, “At first it was having others watch, and then it was involving others."

There was always violence, she said, but it eventually took a turn for the worse.

Her trafficker nearly strangled her to death on more than one occasion. Sakura finally walked away.

"But I had to get to the point where I recognized that I deserve to live, and I don't deserve to live like this."

Today, there are only faint reminders of what she went through. She has scars from cutting herself back then in an effort to numb the pain, but they are now covered in tattoos.

Her voice now serves as hope for others who are looking to get out.

"And stay out of these situations, because there's heavy drawback into it, when you start hitting those barriers, of not being able to find steady work, bills are coming up, rent's due, utilities getting shut off, it's very easy, sometimes, to resort back to what we know."

Magdalene Omaha is expected to be up and running before the year 2018. They are relying on donations to make this a reality. If you or someone you know caught up in similar violence, or you’re interested in donating to Magdalene Omaha, visit