DETROIT (FOX 2) – A human trafficking survivor is sharing her story after she said she was charmed and groomed into a trusting relationship that led to multiple sexual assaults.
Nicole Denson is a survivor and activist. She met the man who trafficked her on her 16th birthday. That was 21 years ago at the old Northland Mall in Southfield. While she’s escaped, she’s looking back and knows that it was her vulnerable state that led to her fall into the human trafficking world.
“One day really changed my life forever. I was in an accident with my father and he was critically injured, he died. He was killed,” said Nicole.
A vulnerable state
She grew up in a loving home on Detroit’s west side but it was complex. She says there was physical and emotional abuse. With the sudden loss of her dad, Denson remembers the things she found joy in were gone.
“I remember I just stopped loving doing all of the things that I was doing. I stopped dancing, laughing. I just felt numb,” said Denson.
She was ripe with grief when she met her trafficker and she said he approached her like any other guy and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“He was very charming, he was charismatic. He really seemed like he wanted to get to know me,” she said. “It wasn’t like anything that would give a red flag like you’ve seen in the movies. It wasn’t like the movie ‘Taken’ which is like a movie that people think (when they think of human trafficking). It actually happened very gradually and very slow.”
The relationship changes
Eventually, he became her boyfriend but the entire time he was grooming her and gaining her trust. Then it all changed.
“I walked into this house. It was loud music, there was smoking and drinking and there were over 15 to 20 different men. I remember my heart started racing and I said ‘oh my goodness, what am I doing, what is happening’,” said Denson. “I was trembling. I’m even trembling as I tell this.”
Just like that, SHE was having sex so HE could money. For more than a year, he passed her around at house parties and hotels – all while she still went to private school and played her other roles as a daughter and friend.
“One of the most lowest points was when I was driven to his friend’s house and, unfortunately, I didn’t know that there would be a camera there. At the age of 16 I was sexually assaulted via camera,” said Nicole.
Now he had leverage to control her and to do the unthinkable. Then, suddenly, it just stopped.
“One day, I was supposed actually to go into a house and forced to do these acts. He had a change of heart and decided to drop me off instead, at home. He cried and said he was sorry and I said it’s okay. After that, I never heard from him again.”Detroit