This is a content and trigger warning. This story contains descriptions of sex trafficking and sexual violence, physical violence/abuse, bodily harm, and guns.
In November of 2022, a 20-year-old woman named Casey* made a gut-wrenching—but successful—attempt to escape her trafficker in Seattle. Casey was originally from California where her trafficker had exploited and forced her into sex trafficking before crossing state lines into Washington.
Casey was staying at a vacation rental in Seattle with several other young women who were also sex trafficking victims. Each day, their trafficker would drive them to a well-known “track” on Aurora Avenue North. Once there, they were forced to make $2,000 a day for their trafficker performing sex acts.
After witnessing her trafficker brutally assault another victim, Casey decided she wanted to leave, but the trafficker kept her trapped in the rental home for three days. She was forced to strip out of the clothes he purchased for her in order to try to prevent an escape. But Casey was so desperate to escape that she jumped out of a third story window, breaking her leg.
Her trafficker heard her jump and went outside. He forced her into a car and drove her to Aurora Avenue, where he threatened her at gunpoint, which prompted Casey to jump out of the car and run into oncoming traffic with her severely injured and broken leg.
A rideshare driver saw Casey and was concerned about her safety. He pulled over and told her to get into his car. The trafficker then began following them and firing shots, and the rideshare driver returned fire. The rideshare driver was able to get away and pulled into a gas station where Casey was met by medical aid to treat her serious injuries. Later, the police took Casey’s trafficker into custody, and he was charged with sex trafficking and several other crimes.
Casey’s desperation to escape a life of human trafficking was intense, dangerous, and extremely public. But it highlights the truth that human trafficking is a crime that is happening all around us, and employees such as rideshare drivers must be properly trained to be able to recognize and safely respond to human trafficking situations. In Casey’s situation, a rideshare driver came to her assistance when he saw she needed help in her escape attempt. But rideshare drivers can also recognize the warning signs of human trafficking amongst their passengers who are still under the control of their exploiters.
After Casey’s trafficking escape aired on multiple news outlets, many people in Seattle called and wrote into news stations asking how they could help Casey or the rideshare driver who was involved. But due to privacy interests, reporters did not even know her true name. The truth is, there are thousands of victims who are forced into human trafficking situations against their will each day in Seattle other cities all across the world.
If people want to help, they can donate to anti-trafficking organizations like BEST to support the training of public facing employees, so they can recognize and safely respond to human trafficking situations. The need for training is great in many industries. But this year, BEST will begin creating a custom video-based training specifically for rideshare and other for-hire drivers in order to help them learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking and intervene safely. Our goal is to help more victims like Casey get the assistance they need in a less risky and dangerous way than what happened on the streets of Seattle in November 2022.
*Name changed for privacy and not pictured