Survivor shares story of being sold by family into sex trafficking in Michigan

Woman hopes her story raises awareness about signs of sex slavery

WAYNE, Mich. – A survivor who was sold into sex slavery by her family as a 12-year-old girl shared her story with Local 4, hoping it will raise awareness about human trafficking warning signs.

Human trafficking or sexual slavery can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, and most people don't even notice.

A woman named DeVaugh, 31, said there are signs people could notice to help save others like her.

DeVaugh said a pimp doesn't necessarily wear a big hat with a feather, and pedophiles aren't necessarily 40-year-old men who live in basements.

She said sometimes, sex traffickers looks just like family members.

"I was sold at 12, almost 13, by my mother to my sister and my brother-in-law from Kentucky to Michigan," DeVaugh said.

From the age of 12, DeVaugh grew up in a neighborhood at Wayne Road and Michigan Avenue in Wayne. She said she went to school, had friends and kept a secret: that she was a sex slave.

"My brother-in-law was selling me to men who would come to the home," DeVaugh said. "From our house, I was going to school, I had friends, and I was still being sold from inside my home."

Now, she's in the ever-evolving process of healing, speaking to anyone who will listen to her story and take a moment to notice the signs of trafficking.

"If people knew what to look for, it would be so glaringly obvious that something was happening," DeVaugh told the crowd.

DeVaugh said sex trafficking happens in neighborhoods everywhere.

On Friday, she was the keynote speaker at Human Trafficking Symposium, which is held by Henry Ford Health Systems to train its health care professionals on how to spot human trafficking. She said she doesn't want the general public to ignore their own neighborhoods.

"Just by looking -- we did look normal, but there were a lot of signs," DeVaugh said.

Looking back on her life, DeVaugh said her house screamed trafficking, with a lot of visitors -- most of them men -- coming and going at all hours.

When she went out to play, she said an adult was always hovering close by, and she was never allowed to speak freely. In fact, when she was questioned, she said adults always spoke for her.

"We had a privacy fence in the backyard," DeVaugh said. "Big, thick curtains covering every window."

She wore long sleeves on the hottest days to cover her bruises. She missed a lot of school to hide bruises and injuries that couldn't be covered with clothing, she said.

"If you read the red flags, I exhibited a lot of red flags," DeVaugh said. "But if you weren't knowing what to look for, you wouldn't have saw it."

Above all, she said neighbors should be nosy.

"If you think something is going on at a store, call the police," DeVaugh said. "It's better to be nosy and be wrong than to be quiet and let someone be hurt."

Doctors are some of the most important people in the fight against human trafficking. Watch the video below for Paula Tutman's story on red flags for doctors:

About the Authors:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.