By Sean Callebs, CNN
She asked not to be identified. Her first name is Melissa. A victim who beat the odds.
“I thought I would be dead. I never thought I would live to be 22 or 24-years-old,” says Melissa. Her story begins when she was 17, living with another runaway, she says a pimp promised them a better life.
“He started to pay our rent. Pay our bills. Make sure that we had food in our house.” But he also – literally overnight – forced Melissa to trade sex in exchange, she tells us.
“Within a day, my whole life changed. I had to sleep with people. He would tell me where I had to be and when I had to be there.”
Human rights advocates tell us that right now there are about 25,000 young women in the United States who have been forced into sex trafficking. Along with the horror stories we hear of women brought into the U.S. from Asia, Latin America, and Europe, advocates tell us many of the young women forced into sex trafficking are runaways from right here in the United States.
Melissa’s story fits the profile. Trying to escape a broken home, she says she was sexually abused at young age. Pimps prey on women like her.
“It's a problem that's happening right here and it's happening to people’s daughters, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. And it's plaguing every community in the United States,” says Luis CdeBaca, U.S. ambassador-at-large to fight human trafficking. He says it's time for the U.S. to step up its crackdown on sex trafficking with more aggressive investigations and prosecutions.
Tonight in prime time President Obama makes his case for boosting combat forces in Afghanistan by 30,000. It's a hard sell. The public and Congress are skeptical after months of deliberations.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke to our John Roberts on American Morning Tuesday with a preview of the president's speech.
President Obama will announce his new military strategy for Afghanistan tonight from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The cadets there right now enrolled during a time of war, knowing the risks. Now, the commander-in-chief could be writing their futures right in front of them. Our Deb Feyerick got reaction to the president's plan, and the war, from right outside West Point's gates in this AM original report.
Today is World AIDS Day. 33 million people are living with the disease. The number of new cases is down, but more women and younger people are becoming infected.
Designer Kenneth Cole, a longtime activist, was the very first to promote AIDS awareness in ads that have helped shatter the silence about the virus around the world. Our Alina Cho recently spent the day with him in this AM original report.