This week’s #TVT goes to Theresa Flores, founder of @thesoapproject ! In 1982, at 15 years old, Flores’ family moved to a suburb on the out skirts of Detroit, Michigan. While attending her new high school, she developed a crush on a boy in her class. One day, he offered her a ride home school. She was thrilled! While pulling out of the school parking lot, her classmate turned the opposite direction of her home, but assured her not to worry, he just needed to stop by his house before taking her home. Both Flores and the classmate ended up inside of his home, where he offered her a Coca-Cola. She had recognized that he poured it into a glass, but drank it anyways. After a couple of minutes, Flores says she felt dizzy and confused…she had been drugged and raped.
Out of fear that they would never look at her the same way, she never told her family what had happened that day…
The next week at school, the classmate approached her in the hallway. He was holding an envelope with pornographic photos of the incident. After explaining that his cousins had been there and had taken pictures of what happened, she felt relieved at the thought of the photos being “proof” that she had been raped. Unfortunately, they did not look that way…The classmate threatened that she would have to “earn them back” (the photos) in order for them to not tell her family. Again, out of fear, she told no one and did as they said.
Flores had a private phone line in her bedroom, a “luxury” that all of her family members had at the time for privacy. The boys would call her phone in the middle of the night to wake her up and make her come with them. She would sneak out of the house whenever they called and do exactly as they said. At first, it was only the classmate and the cousins that she would see. This is part of the “breaking” or “seasoning” phase. This is where traffickers intimidate, manipulate, beat/rape a victim to gain full control.
After a while of “breaking”, a routine call landed Flores in a very unfamiliar situation. The boys had picked her up and taken her 30 minutes away to a random motel room that was so full of men that Flores says she could only see the bed. “Start the biding”, the cousin said.
“They don’t know your name. They don’t care about you, they don’t care if you’re hurt, if you scream, if you’re crying. It doesn’t matter. You have no value, and you know it.”– Theresa Flores in: “The Girl Next Door – Documentary”
After waking up in the hotel room bed naked, bleeding and feeling confused, she was able to gather enough courage to escape. She knew she had been drugged again and knew that she had to get out of there. In her soaking wet pajamas, she ran into the street, where a police officer had picked her up and taken her home. He had known what had happened without Flores having to say a word and even suspected the boys who had been involved…
Flores’ family soon moved, due to relocation of her father’s job. She never did tell them the FULL story of what had happened to her.
In 2010, Flores pushed for change. She was able to sit right next to Governor Ted Strickland as he signed into state law a measure that gives prosecutors tools to crack down on human trafficking in Ohio.
Today, Flores operates S.O.A.P, an initiative she founded to provide education, safety and an opportunity for concerned citizens to end human trafficking in their community. S.O.A.P. provides bars of soap with the emergency hotline phone number on it to motels and hotels around different cities.
FOLLOW THE SOAP PROJECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook Page: @The Soap Project