Part 1 of 2READ MORE: Free COVID-19 Tests Available To 60K Michigan Households In At-Risk Communities
It’s the gritty underbelly of the Auto Show in Detroit, but it happens each year. The number of listings on backpage.com that rise every time the auto show comes to town reveal that escort service demand spikes during the event — which means human trafficking could also be increasing. Human trafficking is the kidnapping of young girls into the sex trade.
The auto show drew one human trafficking survivor from Birmingham to town to, as she says, clean up the dirty business with soap and a bit of love.
It’s a humble offering, but the sentiment behind the project is much more significant. Teresa Flores, describing the vessel for their life-saving message said, “Dial soap, motel sized soap that you see in many Super 8, Motel 6 type places.”
The few words attached to the bars of soap could mean the difference between life or death for young girls whose futures are in danger of being washed away, Flores said.
Flores and other volunteers are packing the unassuming little bar of soap into a box with hundreds more and delivering them to local low-rent motels just in time for the auto show. Flores explained the concept saying, “We put a little label on it that just has the National Human Trafficking Hotline number and it has a few key questions. Are you being forced to do anything you don’t want to do? Can you leave?”
“Well they all go to the bathroom between each man to wash up and they can close that door to be alone.”READ MORE: Highland Park Parade Shooting Suspect Confessed And "Seriously Contemplated" A Second Attack, Officials Say
At 16, luring her with threats, her captors preyed upon her. The events are detailed in her autobiography “The Slave Across The Street.” Flores says there are many girls just like her.
“For a long time I thought that I was the only one. That I was the only one that this has ever happened to and I didn’t know what to call it. I didn’t have a name for it and when I finally figured out what it was called. That it was called human trafficking. That I was being sold and I finally figured out there was a lot of Theresas out there is when I figured out that we can’t let this happen anymore,” said Flores.
Flores says that’s why these S.O.A.P. drives are so important. And she does them at events not just here, but across the nation, including the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Nascar races and even the Superbowl.
“We rescued immediately six teenagers that where found and recognized by hotel owners and staff saying ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen her. She’s been in here with this guy.'”
But Flores says her eye is now on the Auto Show. “What I do before any outreach is I start monitoring Backpage.com … and I count how many girls are for sale. And then during the event, I’ll be counting every day to see what that peak is. And it will peak out and as soon as the Auto Show is over that number will go back down,” said Flores.
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Visit traffickfree.com for more information and to learn how to donate or volunteer. The next event they plan to focus around is the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.