DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
As TV6 Investigates dug deeper into the global problem, we found out it also happens right here in the QCA.
A local survivor of human trafficking shares her story with TV6's Courtney Spinelli. Due to an ongoing case, TV6 is not identifying the woman or sharing specifics of her story out of safety precautions.
What began as a relationship for one QCA woman evolved into a human trafficking situation.
"I didn't know what it was (human trafficking) until now, and now I do because I've lived through it," she said.
Human trafficking Is considered a form of modern-day slavery.
According to information shared by the Iowa Attorney General's Office, "after drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world, generating about $32 billion each year."
According to the Department of Homeland Security's website, "Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in the United States. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations."
Gretchen Brown-Waech, Victim Rights and Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General's Office, told TV6 social media posts alleging false trafficking tactics play a large role in the misconception surrounding what human trafficking truly is.
The QCA survivor said, "I think a lot of times people think, too, they hear the stories, see the things on TV and movies and that it's this big huge ring."
She told TV6, "My trafficker... my ex... he would blackmail me, say, "I'm gonna tell your family you're doing this or call your work" and he knew those things were so important to me so I tried to do everything I could to protect that."
She said the feelings of isolation and being trapped in the situation were very real.
"I was beaten so many times but there were warning signs if they would've just looked into it a little more," she said, "people say "well I suspected this" or you know, my first instinct was to get angry like if you thought, why didn't you do something about it?"
She said, those thoughts of anger are gone, and her focus is on educating people on recognizing the signs of human trafficking in hopes of helping others.
"Maybe they didn't know where to go or what to do," she told TV6, "nobody wants to think the worst."
According to the young woman, "I think if you see something, say something. I'd rather, any of us would rather, it be a mistake and not be that serious. It's just better to be prepared for the worst case scenario."
Human trafficking is a crime that sees no barriers.
For survivors like this woman, services statewide are available. In the QCA, Family Resources' Braking Traffik program aims to help survivors of human trafficking along with stopping human trafficking in the QCA in Illinois and Iowa.
The program has been enormously helpful in her healing.
She told TV6, "It's something I don't think I'll ever be able to thank them and repay them enough for what they've done."
She also reminds herself every day that she is out of the situation and safe.
"I think there's two things that really helped me," she said, "The first thing is to remind myself that I'm safe and away from him and the atmosphere and environment. I'm safe. The second thing is I've had advocates, counselors, family members say this, "it's time to take care of yourself. It's okay to be a little selfish. Take a nap, get some fast food, things like that... that make you feel good."
She shared her story to show others human trafficking happens locally and that it is always good to know the signs to look out for.
When asked if she had a message for her trafficker, she said, "I've gone through so much already and I'm just gonna get stronger each day. You don't have the power anymore. You don't have the control."
The number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline is (888) 373-7888. You can find more information on their website, here.