Two women who say they were forced into sex trafficking as young girls have shared their story two decades later as they call for a swift crackdown on the sickening industry.
Tatiana Yoguez and Nicole McCall were 12 and 13 years old, respectively, when they were snatched off the street by a group of men while walking home from a mall in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2002.
The men lured the girls in by offering to give them a ride home, but instead brought them to a motel where they were held captive, drugged and raped for weeks.
Ms Yoguez and Ms McCall returned to the scene of their captivity this week for an interview with First Coast News where they demanded an end to America’s human trafficking crisis.
Speaking outside an apartment complex where they were held against their will, Ms Yoguez said: “My memories of what happened here is a lot of drugs, a lot of alcohol and being raped repeatedly.”
The women went back to the day in January 2002 when they were heading home with their friend Jessica, then 14, and three young men approached them in a car.
“We decided to get in the car with them,” Ms McCall said. “They said they would take us home, and we trusted them.”
The offer proved anything but innocent when the men announced they wouldn’t be taking the girls home.
“At that point, we realized we made a bad decision,” Ms Yoguez said. “We all looked at each other and it was just like, ‘What do we do now?’”
The girls were then taken to a motel where they were stripped naked. “Everything we had, he took from us,” Ms Yoguez said.
Ms McCall described how they were forced to take pills washed down with alcohol.
“It was Hennessy,” she said. “I remember the smell and taste, and he also gave us cocaine. I have forced you to do these drugs.”
The situation only grew more horrifying from there as a string of men took turns raping the girls over the course of a month in various locations – including motels, homes, apartments and strip clubs.
“We pleaded with him to please let us go,” Ms Yoguez said of their captor. “We’re 12, 13, 14. We won’t tell. Just let us go.
“He had no empathy. He had no care. It was, ‘It doesn’t matter. I don’t care how old you are. You’re with me now.’”
As the days ticked by, they lost all hope of escape as they were locked inside completely naked. “I thought we were going to die there. I thought he was going to use us up and kill us,” Ms McCall said.
After weeks of abuse, the girls finally found freedom when a man looking after them took pity and offered a way out.
“He threw clothes on the ground and just opened up that back door,” Ms McCall said.
She remembered him saying: “Get out while you can. This is your opportunity.”
“We looked at each other [and] took that opportunity,” she recalled. “We threw them shirts on, and we just ran out.”
The nightmare continued even after their release, they said, because police failed to take their accounts seriously and instead treated them as “promiscuous runaways.”
Ms McCall described attempting to take her own life after returning home, saying it took extensive therapy for her to fully realize that she was a victim.
She and Ms Yoguez began speaking publicly about the experience years later, after their friend Jessica was murdered.
The women are now working as advocates for survivors and chronicled their harrowing story in a book entitled Life Outside The Game.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.