Tampa trafficking survivor says victims live in silent fear

When she hears stories of women living in massage parlors, seeing clients all day, Connie Rose, of Tampa, asks one question: "How long have they been silent?"

She was one of them.

As a teen, living in Town 'N Country, she was pimped out by her own father in the 1970s to several men a day. 

Sometimes she knew they were powerful or famous, but didn't know specifics. Now, watching the Palm Beach County investigation into an alleged sex trafficking operation involving, among others, the owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, she remembers her own abuse.

"How long have they been trying to tell someone through their eyes or gestures, 'there is something going on behind those closed doors,'" Rose said.

On Monday, Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg charged 25 alleged Johns and two women who allegedly reaped the profits. 

"Human trafficking is the business of stealing someone's freedom for profit," Aronberg said at a press conference.

He said first-time offenders are unlikely to get jail time, but depending on where they live, will have to respond to the charges either in person or by mail. Most won't get mugshots for the misdemeanor but do face up to a year in jail.

As for Kraft, he allegedly arrived in a Bentley, driven by a chauffer, and was caught on video paying with a $100 bill. 

"It is also fueled by the demand side," said Aronberg. "Demands from otherwise law-abiding citizens who are not aware, or who don't want to be aware, about those being exploited."

Through her work as a motivational speaker, Rose has met several young women from the Bay Area working in similar spas.

"We are very grateful this has come to light," said Rose. "They are having conversations about foreigners. However, the largest percentage of people being trafficked in the United States are Americans."

Indeed, a 2016 report from the Polaris Project showed 159 Chinese trafficking cases, but almost 2,200 Americans. 

Overall, the numbers go up every year, high profile cases, or not.

"I [didn't] realize I was a victim," said Rose. "That is the other thing for the ladies. Those victims, they didn't know they were victims."