'If you get me home safe, I'll dance. And I'll dance for you'
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - January is Sex Trafficking Awareness Month. It is a form of modern day slavery happening around the world and throughout the state of Oregon.
You do not have to be sold into slavery in order to be a victim. Psychological slavery can be equally as devastating.
That is what Springfield native Lindsey Cooper found out when she turned 21.
Cooper said she got into the party scene and lost her job.
"I lost a lot of my self-worth during that time," Cooper said.
Cooper said, shortly after, an older, charming travelling salesman offered her a job as his assistant, persuading her with gifts, compliments and promises of an exciting future.
However, Cooper said, on the very first leg of their trip, if became clear why she was there.
"We ended up sleeping together that night," Cooper said. "I just did what he said. I did what he wanted, when he wanted."
Cooper said she felt afraid and isolated. She said she was not allowed to contact family or even leave the hotel rooms. She said he was verbally and emotionally abusive.
"I had seen him get mad, and I didn't want to see what could happen if he got really mad," Cooper said.
Weeks went by, and for the first time in years, Lindsey prayed.
"I said at the end," she recalled, "if you get me home safe, I'll dance. And I'll dance for you."
Cooper said the next day, he handed her a one-way plane ticket to Eugene. She was going home. Six years later Lindsey made good on the promise and started Identity Dance Studio in Springfield.
"Just as a means of prevention for these girls and these young men. Just to give them somewhere to be. Someone to be accountable to," Cooper said.
Cooper said she hopes she can prevent her experience from happening to others. She says she wants to help raise strong, confident dancers.
"You can look at someone in the eye and say 'No. I don't belong to you. I am not for sale. And that is not who I am.'"
Lane County Against Trafficking is holding a sex trafficking awareness training on Saturday, January 26. The public is invited to attend.