'Nobody grows up saying I want to be a prostitute'

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Updated: 5/10/2013 12:48 pm
Reno, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- Love fuels Leah Albright-Byrd's life.

Pictures of family and friends line the walls of her Sacramento home, a reminder of what she lives for.

But life hasn't always been a picture of love. When she was 14, she ran away from a home full of domestic violence, and into the arms of a man, she later found out was a pimp.

"Nobody, nobody grows up saying I want to be a prostitute. It's not glamorous, it's not fun," said Leah.

As a teen, from age 14 to 18, she was trafficked for sex on the streets of Reno, Vegas and Sacramento. Sometimes, she said, being forced to have sex with multiple men.

"You see that there are these men that have families and children and they're wanting to do things to you and with you that are absolutely disgusting, you know? You lose faith in humanity."

There were times, she said, when she didn't know if she would even live to see the next day.

"He slammed my head down into his lap, he started to tell me he was going to rape me and he was going to kill me," she said.

Leah's is just one story of a teens life lost on the streets of Reno to trafficking.

Reno Police Sergeant Ron Chalmers said the area along Fourth Street between West Street and Vine, is where they focus most of their attention on traffickers and girls being trafficked.

"They're out here, they're usually walking by themselves," he said. "They're looking to see who's a customer, who's making eye contact with them."

RPD's Street Enforcement or SET team, works around the clock, targeting pimps and girls being solicited.

"Before I took over this unit about a year ago, I didn't know how significant the issue was and I had been a police officer for 18 years."

He said it's not just streets, but the internet, that is becoming an increasingly alarming problem.

Pimps and girls are using websites to solicit sex in Reno and beyond.

"In one 24 hour period recently, we had over 200 girls posting in Reno that they were on those websites," said Chalmers.

He said they do, do undercover operations and officers scour websites, but it's just not enough.

"I think what's going to deter them the most is we need to increase our penalties. There's always a risk versus reward analysis and until we make the risk greater than the reward, we're not gonna make an impact."

Chalmers said right now, many people can walk away with just a fine or a simple misdemeanor. Which he said is just not enough to keep them from doing it.

For now, he said anytime his team can get a girl off the street, it's a small victory. And Leah was one of the lucky ones. She was able to get out of that life in 2002. When asked if she hadn't made the decision to leave, she had this to say.

"I don't think I've ever had anyone ask me that. I think I'd be dead. Either that or just severely addicted to drugs," she said.

Leah is now a college graduate and substance abuse counselor. She also started an organization in honor of her friend Bridget, who was also trafficked as a teen and died as a result.

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dimitra1 - 6/26/2013 2:50 PM
0 Votes
It isn't only me - I know many women who wanted to be sex workers early on...

Bob Bennett - 5/10/2013 10:58 AM
1 Vote
While sex trafficking is a problem that needs to be addressed, in Confessions of a high-priced call girl, this is what former Reno resident and Author, Dimitra Ekmektsis says wanted to be growing up.

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