The girl who had sex in a South Fort Myers High School bathroom with several boys while others watched was a victim of human trafficking when she was 13 and is still recovering from the trauma, her mother says.
The mother told WBBH-TV about her daughter’s past trauma after becoming upset by the way the girl was being bullied, shamed and vilified online after news about the incident went viral.
“I had heard about a lot about the incident through the news. I heard it and thought there’re some red flags,” said Megan Estrem, who runs a group, Be the Light, that provides support for human trafficking victims. She spoke on the mother’s behalf in an interview with WBBH. “What’s upsetting about this is this behavior is not uncommon for human trafficking victims.
School officials say 25 boys were seen on surveillance video entering the bathroom at the high school during the hourlong incident, and 16 have been disciplined, including several members of the football team. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Video was recorded on cell phones during the incident, and later posted to Snapchat and Twitter.
One student, 16-year-old football player William Scott, has been arrested on felony charges, including possession of obscene material and cruelty to child, for allowing a child to engage in a sex act, police say.
Estrem said the girl was brought to her organization by her mother for help recovering from the trauma of being a human trafficking victim. She had been held captive by a trafficker for nearly two years and recently spent eight months in treatment. The girl had only been a student at South Fort Myers High School for two weeks when the incident happened.
“She was not equipped to make a stable, rational decision in that situation,” said Estrem.
The average age of entry into trafficking in the United States is 12 to 14, according to a 2009 FBI report. The FBI says many of the trafficked girls and boys are runaways and victims of prior sexual abuse.
Statistics of how many human trafficking cases and victims there are in the United States each year are hard to track. But the National Human Trafficking Resource Center says it received “24,757 signals nationwide” about human trafficking victims in 2015. The “signals” include phone calls, online tip reports, or emails.
Florida is consistently ranked in the top 3 states for human trafficking activity. Lee, Collier & surrounding counties are a hot bed for modern-day slavery,” Be the Light says on its website. “It is important to understand that human trafficking is a diverse, manipulative and hidden crime. It looks many different ways & the signs are not always the same.”
Estrem spoke about the issue of human trafficking in a Facebook Live video chat with WBBH. You can watch a replay below:
You can read more about this story at the links below:
Read more about the Fort South Myers sex video in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com: