WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- D.C. is one of the top ten worst cities in America for human sex trafficking, according to the FBI. It's a transient city with plenty of wealth and plenty of poverty, creating ripe conditions for victims to get swept up into sex trafficking rings.
"For a normal person to hear 'prostitution,' the first thing that's going to come to their head, 'Oh, she's a whore or she's a slut, she's choosing to do this,'" said a D.C. woman who did not want to be identified.
This 20-year-old was sucked into a life of prostitution. She claimed, for many like her, it's hardly a choice.
"I needed a way to survive and I got introduced," she recalled.
Escaping a home full of drugs, at 13-years-old she ran away. She quickly met another young girl who introduced her to a man who turned out to be a pimp. Soon after, she was being sold for sex.
"I'm 13, sleeping with people that's old enough to be my father, my grandfather, and I'm 13. I felt as though this was something that I had to do," she described. "I didn't have no where to go, no food to eat, sleeping here and there - just trying to maintain and live."
Teresa Tomassoni, Director of Programs for FAIR Girls, a group providing services to victims of sex trafficking, said the victim's abductor did what many pimps do: prey on vulnerability.
"[The victims] are looking to fulfill their basic needs for food, clothes, shelter and love. They're looking for a family that maybe they never had," said Tomassoni.
Many victims, 65 percent nationwide according to FAIR Girls, are runaways from abusive foster care situations and find someone who claims they can help.
Andrea Powell, Founder and Director of FAIR Girls, said pimps can make more than $10,000 a week, thanks to the hundreds of buyers per night.
She also points to websites that help facilitate the sex trafficking industry. Powell said Backpage.com made more than $40 million from 2012-13 selling sex ads, though not all trafficking.
Many children Fair Girls serves were sold on the website, which Powell said has between 200 to 400 sex ads.
"People think sex trafficking is about the sex but it's about the money," said Powell.
She added that while buyers rarely get arrested, many child victims who are sold and raped by adults an average of three to five times per night do get arrested for prostitution. For some girls, the nightmare lasts for years.
"They are put at risk for STIs, STDs, they're raped repeatedly, they're robbed, they're sold in different areas - it could be all throughout their communities or across state lines and across the country," said Tomassoni.
The 20-year-old victim echoed Tomassoni.
"It's scary. Getting robbed, getting beat, you not even getting your money, people doing whatever they want to you, you not even really getting a choice," she said.
FAIR Girls has pushed for victims to be treated as such, instead of criminals. Now, D.C. City Council is considering a new bill that could help do just that.
Critical points of the Sex Trafficking of Minors Prevention Act would ensure that child victims receive support services, like FAIR Girls, instead of getting arrested for prostitution.
The bill also mandates a prompt and thorough police search for minors if they run away from home, which Powell said is not the case now.
Finally, police would have to go through increased training that would help them identify a victim of sex trafficking as opposed to someone willingly and independently engaged in prostitution.
"One out of every three children who run away from home are approached by a pimp or a buyer within 48 hours of running away.
"[The bill] ensures that they don't feel like they're being treated as criminals," said Powell.
But she admitted that while the bill can help curb, it wont stop sex trafficking.
That, Powell explained, will require police to go after those who buy sex, more than they do now. Also, harsher punishments for buyers and pimps are needed. Finally, holding accountable websites that help facilitate the sex trafficking industry.
D.C. City Council is scheduled to have a final reading of the Sex Trafficking of Minors Prevention Act in December.