Soap offers hope for sex trafficking victims in Metro Detroit

When a man she trusted began trafficking out Theresa Flores at hotels around Detroit, the 15-year-old could only focus on when it would all be over and she could wash off with soap and water.

“Many times we think of the girl as just a prostitute or someone on the street doing it for the drugs,” said Flores, of her experience with sex trafficking. “For many years I didn’t know what to call what happened to me, and I had a hard time healing.”

Having broken away from the industry, Flores is now working to raise awareness and prevent other women from being trafficked like she was.

On Saturday Jan. 11, Flores’ group Save Our Adolescents From Prostitution, packaged and distributed 130,000 bars of soap with the number for the trafficking awareness hotline on them to 70 hotels and motels in Metro Detroit ahead of the North American International Auto Show. Trafficking can get a boost from large-scale events where many out-of-towners come in to stay at hotels and motels, Flores said.

Flores said the group doesn’t call the hotels and motels before members arrive to avoid being rejected outright. The hotel-size bars of soap have a label attached that reads, “Are you being forced to do anything you do not want to do? Have you you been threatened if you try to leave? Have you witnessed young girls being prostituted? If so, please call: 1-888-3737-888.”

Later this month the group will hold the same event in New Jersey, ahead of the Super Bowl, often cited as a prime time for sex trafficking and prostitution. The state has been planning ways to crack down on it in the weeks before and after the big game.

Nationally, leaders are starting to take notice of the problem of human trafficking.

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