LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Hundreds of thousands of people travel I-10 every day.
It spans eight states, through major cities like Santa Monica, Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans and Jacksonville, with proximity to Mexico.
Senator Ronnie Johns says, “For whatever reason the I-10 corridor is a really hotbed of trafficking and we watch that very, very closely.”
A sex trafficking victim, whose identity we're not revealing for her safety, says she was sold into slavery by a loved one.
“It was a really dear friend to me who was in debt to, a drug dealer, and he left me there," our victim said. “I was 17 and because I was really naive and innocent, I started doing drugs to cope with it. I tried to commit suicide.”
She sought treatment, but eventually fell victim again, marrying a man who sold her into sex slavery.
“He kept me completely out of my mind," she said. "He injected me with drugs all the time. I was always his princess, his main one. Anytime I tried to leave, he beat me.”
Erika Simon, Vice President of Family and Youth Counseling of Southwest Louisiana, says this is a common case for victims.
“It may start off as someone who is a close friend to them or maybe consider that person a significant other," Simon said. "A relationship starts and then as things progress, they’re recruited into that lifestyle.”
Many times, traffickers are the reason victims have a place to live, food to eat, and drugs to keep them from getting sick.
“These traffickers are great about building this facade of being their safe-haven — of being that person that’s going to care for them and provide for them,” Simon said.
Johns says there’s major money in the sex trade, which is why the number of victims is steadily increasing.
“When you sell a human, you might sell that one person 10 or 12 times every day," Johns said.
Simon and our victim says there are ways to identify those involved in the sex slave industry. For instance, a major difference in age could be a red flag.
“I was a young girl with the guy a lot older than me," our victim said. Special markings and tattoos, injuries and lack of identification for the victim are other warnings.
“And that’s the things that played on me when he beat me unrecognizable," our victim said. "I thought, I’m going to be found as a Jane Doe because I have no identification on me.”
Sen. Johns says there are around 500 to 600 victims rescued from human trafficking each year in Louisiana alone.
“I found out real quickly it’s in my backyard," Johns said. "It’s in everybody’s backyard.”
Those most at risk range in age from 14 to 17, but sex trafficking doesn’t discriminate.