• Survivors of sex trafficking mentor victims as part of new local program

    By: Sarahbeth Ackerman

    Updated:

    POLK COUNTY, Fla. - The state of Florida currently ranks No. 3 in the nation with the number of reported cases through the human trafficking hotline.

     

    It’s a problem in every county, but a new pilot program in Central Florida focuses on helping those victims by pairing them with other survivors to help them heal.

     

    Channel 9 spoke with one survivor who is using her painful past to help current victims become survivors.

     


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    Amylyn Harrington Smoot was just like any other young girl--she went to school, church and spent time with family and friends.

    But when she was 8, her world changed.

     

    "A lot of people wonder, ‘Who has sex with an 8-year-old child?’ I can tell you, they were all kinds of men,” she said.

     

    Harrington Smoot grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1960s.

     

    She started playing outside with her new friend until one day her new friend led her to a house. 

     

    Inside the house was a room filled with designer dresses and a man she would soon know as "Father."

     

    "He would take pictures of us and it felt very much like a fashion shoot until he wanted to take pictures of us out of the dresses,” said Harrington Smoot.

     

    Little did she know, she was going to be trafficked.

     

    "I was gagged, I was bound, I was cut, I was burned; any kind of demented sexual acts that you can think of I experienced for about 18 months,” she said.

     

    The rules were simple; show up every day and keep your mouth shut or her family would pay.

     

    "’Do not tell’ is pounded into your head. 'Don't tell. Don't ever tell. If you tell, horrible things will happen.' And so, I never told,” she said.

     

    The trafficking and abuse did not stop until she was 9 and a half, when she showed up at the house and found the doors locked and the furniture gone.

     

    For years, she didn't speak a word of it until her daughter turned eight.

     

    After speaking with investigators and counselors, she started going public with her painful past.

     

    Harrington Smoot is now part of a new pilot program in Central Florida with The Porch Light, a safe home for victims.

     

    Recently, The Porch Light was offered a contract to create a program designed to pull a team of survivors to work with victims who have been targeted.

     

    Harrington Smoot is now not only a survivor, but a mentor.

     

    "For me, it feels like they (the abusers) lose a little bit of power every time I talk about it,” she said.

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