NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Four men were arrested Wednesday in connection with a brutal sex trafficking operation in Brooklyn after a 20-year-old woman bravely came forward after eight years as a sex slave, officials said.
The alleged victim was a vulnerable young girl from a good family who in 2003, at the age of 13, was raped by two men and forced to become a prostitute, officials said. The woman said she was beaten, stabbed and forced to sleep with homeless men when the proceeds she brought in weren’t perceived to be enough.
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Alleged ringleader Damien Crooks was seen entering a Brooklyn courtroom Wednesday, charged with repeatedly raping and forcing into prostitution the then-teen, reports CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
It began with Crooks allegedly raping the girl in a neighborhood park, followed by a non-stop campaign of terror for the next eight years while the girl lived with her parents.
“Crooks would not let her go. He followed her. He threatened her. He showed up at her work and at school and through threats of physical abuse he continued to force her to have sex with numerous men, keeping all the money for himself,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.
“He even sold her on the street for $20 to a passerby.”
Prosecutors said Crooks had help. Darrell Dula, Jamali Brockett and his brother, Jawara Brockett, are also charged with raping the girl in addition to other crimes.
Together, all are accused of making the girl afraid not only for her own life, but for the lives of her loved ones.
So she kept it all secret, sneaking out of her parents’ house late at night.
The turning point for the victim came as she was studying criminal justice at John Jay College. Her tormentors were threatening to recruit one of her close family members and she could not let that happen, so she went to her professor, Jeff Kern, a former prosecutor.
“It’s hard to imagine something more tragic than this,” Kern said. “I always perceived in her an inner strength, a core strength that allowed her to get through all this to be productive and even thrive.”
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“They trafficked her, they forced her into prostitution, basically beating her, raping her and threatening that if she told anybody that they would harm her family and her,” Brooklyn prosecutor Lauren Hirsch, the chief of the Sex Crimes Trafficking Unit, said.
“Every day is a struggle for her. As time goes on things will become easier and easier.”
The ordeal is not over. The victim’s immediate family members, who did not know the full story until recently, had to be relocated to a secret, safe place.
Investigators suspect there are more young victims, who they hope will follow the example of a brave young woman who came forward to stop a nightmare.
Last year the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office launched an anti-sex trafficking campaign with a 24-hour hotline and posters across the borough. Since then, 26 alleged sex traffickers have been indicted.
Other victims are urged to call the hotline at 718-250-2770.
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