Bekah Charleston is a survivor.
The youngest of six children, she grew up in a loving home in Keller, Texas. Her parents have been married for 57 years. As a little girl, Bekah loved soccer, school, and cheerleading, and looked forward to going to church every week with her family.
But it took just one horrible event to turn her idyllic childhood into a living nightmare.
At just 14 years old, Bekah was raped, shattering her innocence and her life. Feeling immense shame and fear, she refused to tell anyone, including her loving family, about what happened. Like many survivors of sexual assault, she blamed herself for the crime that was committed against her.
Alone and afraid, she turned to drugs and acting out in various ways to cope with the trauma from what she had experienced. Three years later, at the age of 17, she ran away from her family and loving home, exchanging that secure environment for the harsh life of a new home on the streets.
It was there where she thought she met her rescuer — her “knight in shining armor.”
Her “knight” was an aspiring magician in his twenties. At least that was the story he told Bekah. He promised to take care of her. Being young, vulnerable, and afraid, Bekah fell for all his lies.
First, he became her boyfriend. Then, he started to incrementally establish absolute control over every aspect of her life. Bekah moved in with him and was quickly introduced to a vicious cycle of copious drug consumption, including hallucinogens, which turned her life into a confused blur.
The drug use was followed by punching, kicking, and beatings. Sadly, as is similar with many victims of abuse, Bekah felt he loved her. Instead, he only saw her as a product to be sold, bought, and consumed.
Her rescuer, her “knight in shining armor” was, in reality, a trafficker who took her across state lines to Nevada, where the state’s practice of legalized prostitution allows sex trafficking to be openly practiced, resulting in Bekah’s abuse escalating even further. Her trafficker then moved her to Las Vegas, placing her in one of Nevada’s most “famous” legal brothels where she was held as a virtual captive. Bekah was not allowed to turn down any sex buyer for fear of being kicked out and beaten by her trafficker who also received all the money she was paid for providing sex.
For ten years, Bekah endured this sexual servitude until her real rescuers came in the form of a church, along with federal authorities, who helped Bekah escape her living nightmare. While now free from her forced imprisonment, she remained terrified of her trafficker who still threatened to kill her.
Although Bekah will struggle with a lifetime of triggers and emotional scars from the complex trauma, indescribable violence, and sexual abuse she endured, she is a woman of great courage. She now leads national efforts to prevent other young women from experiencing the very type of exploitation she suffered as well as helping women escape these abusive situations.
With the backing of the NCOSE Law Center, Bekah is going to court and asking that the state of Nevada be held accountable under the law. The NCOSE Law Center filed a suit on her behalf and one other survivor to sue Nevada for creating, promoting, and advertising the environment that made her abuse possible — an environment that made the state not only a magnet for trafficked women but also a jackpot for those who profit from sexual exploitation. Bekah says in a powerful video:
Forty-eight years ago, prostitution was legalized in Nevada. It was a social experiment. That experiment has failed. Women and children have paid the price. Nevada has the largest sex trade (illegal and legal) of any state in the country. Sixty-three percent higher than the next highest state. Nevada ranks in the top 10 for trafficked and exploited youth. It’s time to end prostitution and trafficking in Nevada.
NCOSE could not agree more. Just like you, we cannot hear stories like Bekah’s and do nothing. We must stop this gross abuse and exploitation of vulnerable young women like her. It is her story, and the tragic stories of all the women who have been trafficked and exploited in the Silver State, that led NCOSE to name Nevada to our annual Dirty Dozen List last year.
These stories also shed light on the patterns and realities of human trafficking and show why we must act now to stop more tragedies before they occur.
That is why I am writing you today. Will you join with the NCOSE Law Center to hold the state of Nevada accountable and protect innocent young women from the horrors of the state’s sanctioned sex trafficking?
But if we are to be successful in stopping the exploitation of young women like Bekah, and all the others who have fallen or could fall prey to being sex trafficked, we need the necessary resources to file these lawsuits and win. Those resources are your generosity, passion, and partnership. Equipped with these resources, we are confident that we can defeat the powerful forces the commercial sex industry, including Nevada’s legal brothel system, with its deep pockets and long-held traditions, has its disposal.
Bekah’s story also serves to highlight another key part of this exploitation — one that is often overlooked by the media and others concerned with human trafficking — the intersection of trafficking and prostitution.
The simple answer to stopping trafficking is this: without the men looking to buy women in prostitution (the demand), there would not be a need for traffickers to supply victims.
We are at a critical time. Occasionally, we are faced with landmark opportunities that have the potential to change the world. This is one of them.
We can strike at the heart of so much needless sexual exploitation and suffering by making an aggressive strike against one of the hotbeds of this endless and tragic sexual demand. Nevada’s sex tourism industry has created an unquenchable demand, one that requires more and younger women each year to satisfy the ravenous hunger of commercial sex buyers. Many young women, like Bekah and the other plaintiff in this case, have been or are being brought across Nevada state line against their will, all to satisfy this demand.
©National Center for Sexual Exploitation. All rights reserved.
17,500- the number of children trafficked into the U.S. annually.
185,000- the number of children trafficked within the U.S. annually.
Sexual abuse isn’t a nice conversation topic, but horrific criminals depend on your silence.
Be alert, report, be loud.
And VOTE for justice. pic.twitter.com/aehB0t01NX
— Storm_Chaser (@StmCh_) October 29, 2020