Shamere McKenzie described her experience as a victim of human trafficking as "eighteen months (of) being severely beaten, raped, sodomized and witnessing other ladies experience the same thing.” She was one of more than seven people who took the stage Sunday night at Takoma Station to share their stories of how they escaped human sex trafficking.

McKenzie said she was in college, had lost her sports scholarship due to an injury, and turned to a man she thought was nice and would help her make money. This man, Corey Davis a.k.a. "Magnificent," became her pimp. At one point, “he choked me to the point of unconsciousness, where I lost control of my bodily fluids. To this day my right eye has a dark spot where he popped a blood vessel," she said.

When you're in it, she says, “You believe this person and you know, after a while you develop a compliant behavior to do whatever this person said do, simply to survive."

One day, McKenzie said she’d had enough of the abuse and when she heard her pimp cock his gun, she decided to run. While running "A man was in his garage and said, 'Why do you keep running around here?' and even in the midst of running for my life, I told a lie that I was programmed tell by my trafficker: ‘I'm running away from my boyfriend.” McKenzie said it was that very man who helped her escape.

McKenzie has since turned her life around and now runs Sun Gate Foundation, an organization that helps sex trafficking survivors continue their education. She also does other work with and for survivors.

Although she was an adult when she was trafficked, McKenzie hopes her story will shine a light on missing kids in our area. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said last year that one in six of the more than 18,500 runaways were likely sex trafficking victims.

There are some signs that indicate if someone is a victim of sex trafficking, including:

  1. A much younger girl with an older man.
  2. A person with no apparent income, owning expensive things with no explanation as to how they could afford them.