How sex trafficking victims in Central Texas use nail art to heal

An Austin woman is helping young sex trafficking survivors move on from their troubled past.

AUSTIN - "When I was 16 I was kidnapped and trafficked," a teen who does not want to reveal her identity told KVUE. 

It happened after she downloaded a social meetup app on her phone. She was hoping to find a boyfriend and met a guy she liked. The two set up a date and he picked her up the next day.

"And as soon as I got in the car I couldn't get back out," she said. “He just started saying, 'I own you now.' And we started going to hotels from there."

She said that's when the real nightmare began.

"My first client I ever had had white hair,” she said. “He had glasses and he was like 70."

Every day she said she was forced to sleep with multiple men.

"You just have to zone out while it's going on until it's over," she said. 

She was given little food and forced to down drugs, constantly under watch.

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"You don't know how many times I wanted to go up to somebody and ask them to help me," she said.

A trip to the store finally provided that opportunity.

"I got saved at a Walmart," she said. 

It happened after her pimp told her to carry a few items out for him. It turns out he never paid for them and the teen was caught for shoplifting.

"When the police showed up I told them what happened," the teen said. 

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She said her pimp was arrested.

"After that, I went to a temporary safe house," she said. 

It’s been two years since she was rescued and she's still recovering, finding hope in a place where she’s also found a purpose.

"I'm trying to get back to what I used to be," she said. 

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The teen is enrolled at the Adamo Nail Lab and learning a lot from the school’s founder. The Adamo Nail Lab teaches women like her the trade of manicuring, giving them the tools they need to make a living. The school started last month with 10 students, but the founder's hope is to expand as they receive more funding.

Carissa Bradford’s idea to create the school came a few years after a sex trafficking victim came up to her car asking her for help.

"This girl comes and she knocks on our door,” Bradford said. “She's got a staph infection the size of a baseball on her left arm. I was just so hell-bent on making sure that I gave her whatever I could."

Knowing that victim wasn’t alone, Bradford got to work to help others like her. She converted an air stream camper into a traveling nail bar and puts the money she makes from services into the school.

"My ultimate goal for these women is to leave confident that they can live a self-sustainable life," Bradford said.

The Adamo Nail Bar makes several stops throughout Austin and also accepts donations to help cover the cost of students at the lab.

To learn more about Adamo Nail Bar, go here.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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