Millions of young girls are lured into the lucrative business of sex trafficking. These women are cultivated by older men and sometimes women and forced into prostitution. It happens in every country and almost every city. The average age of the girls brought into this industry is 13. Many enter the business as young as 5. These women are then forced into prostitution or face physical abuse and sometimes torture. These girls are usually lured in my a seemingly nice man and after a few days, the violence begins and they are trapped.Many girls are lured in through chat rooms. Many of the sex traffickers use Craigslist, Backpage, local sites, local publications and magazines with the personals, escorts and other categories to generate business for the girls they have under their control. The sex trafficking industry is a $39,000,000,000 a year industry. Most of the traffickers get a very high return on their investment (buying them nicer clothes, etc.) This is high profit and low risk enterprise for the traffickers.
Sold by their mothers: Shining a light on the child sex trade in Cambodia
The CNN Freedom Project wants to amplify the voices of the victims of modern-day slavery, highlight success stories and help unravel the tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life.
(CNN) When Kieu was 12, her mother asked her to take a job. But not just any job. Kieu was first examined by a doctor, who issued her a "certificate of virginity." She was then delivered to a hotel, where a man raped her for two days.
In 2013, the Freedom Project went to Cambodia with Oscar-winning actress and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador against Human Trafficking, Mira Sorvino. The result was "Every Day in Cambodia: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary," which looked at child sex trafficking in the country.
In Svay Pak, a notorious child sex trafficking hub in Phnom Penh, Sorvino met Kieu, who was then around 14 years old. She had been rescued from sex trafficking by Agape International Missions (AIM), a non-profit for trafficked and at risk children and teenagers.
Kieu told of how she had been sold aged 12 by her mother to a Khmer man of "maybe more than 50" who had three children of his own, Sorvino explained in her Cambodia journal: "The price set in advance for her virginity: $1,500, though she was ultimately only given $1,000, of which she had to give $400 to the woman who brought her to the man. Her mother used the money to pay down a debt and for food for the fish they raise under their floating house -- their primary income source.
"Beforehand, Kieu said, 'I did not know what the job was and whether it was good for me. I had no idea what to expect. But now I know the job was not good for me.' After she lost her virginity to the man, she felt 'very heartbroken.' Her mother supposedly felt bad too, but still sent her to work in a brothel. Kieu said she did not want to go, but had to. She said, 'They held me like I was in prison.'"
She was kept there for three days, raped by three to six men a day. When she returned home, her mother sent her away for stints in two other brothels, including one 400 kilometers away on the Thai border. When she learned her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, she realized she needed to flee her home.
Read her full story here
Her story is all too common in Svay Pak; she was just one of the girls whose stories were told in the film. Fast forward to 2015 and "Everyday in Cambodia" was named "outstanding documentary" by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, winning a Gracie Allen award.
Sorvino says the film has raised awareness of the issue of child sex trafficking in Svay Pak and Cambodia, helping to raise funds for AIM to build a school that, when completed, will offer hope for more than 1,000 children in the region.
"Primary and especially secondary education is extremely important in preventing trafficking," she says. "It allows children to develop critical thinking skills to be able to defend themselves from traffickers and to have the skills that will enable them to have gainful employment to be able to support their families in other ways than being sexually exploited."
AIM also now works with an "incorruptible" police SWAT team to raid brothels where children are working.
But Sorvino adds that it's not just about helping the victims. "The demand side really needs to be addressed," she says. "If people weren't trying to buy child sex it wouldn't be being sold."
There are many steps we can do as individuals to hamper their recruitment and make it difficult to sell the services of these young girls through online sites. There are also steps we can take to activate our communities and generate much needed attention for our young girls.
1 Look through online sights like Backpage and Craigslist and look through their personals and escorts categories. Most will post a legal age, it's sometimes obvious, once you see their photos, these ages are not accurate. Flag these posts!
2 Keep your perspective. Some women choose to do this as a business, sex trafficking victims are forced. Regardless of how you feel about escorts being advertised, try to focus your attentions to looking for the younger girls.
3 Keep a notebook and take notes on those you see often, similar descriptions and wordings but different images. The willing advertisers will often take photos of themselves. Sex traffickers may do the picture taking and pose the girls in suggestive positions. You may even see bruising on some of the girls.
• By recording details of certain posters you can do web searches for certain phrases they use as well as email addresses. It may help you discover new sites to comb.
4 Flag these post daily. Some sites will pull the advertisement immediately, others require several flags for inappropriate content before they will remove it.
5 Never confuse your activism with policing. You should never attempt to contact the girls or the adults posting the ads. Never attempt to bait or entrap these individuals. Our job is to make their online advertising more difficult and make their business profits suffer.
6 Dedicate a few minutes, whenever you have some free internet time to look over these sites and block suspicious users.
7 Look for local sites that may not have the resources to catch these sex traffickers when they post their ads. Notify the site by flagging or sending a message.
8 Contact your local law makers. Find out what they are doing to stop sex trafficking and the laws around it. What dollars are available to provide re-entry assistance to the girls when they do get away from the traffickers.
9 Investigate Safe Harbor Laws and see if they affect your state. If not, write letters to your representatives.
• A majority of trafficked females will use fake photos. Flagging ads to interfere with business could have unintended consequences for the very victims you are trying to help (they could end up being abused or otherwise punished for not making enough money, or for spending so much re-posting their ads that were removed).
Manila, Philippines (CNN) -- Birds chirp outside. A motorcycle groans up a nearby hill. And in a small, warm room filled with books and framed drawings, a young woman we're calling Maria tears at a tissue as she prepares to tell how sex traffickers corrupted her life.
"I was 15 when I was recruited," she said. "I had to find a job because my father had a lung problem and I needed to find money so we could send him to the hospital."
Maria met a person in her province who said he could find her a job in Manila.
"I thought I was going to work as a dishwasher in a restaurant," she said. "But when I arrived I realized it was a 'casa.'" 'Casa' is a code word for brothel in the Philippines.
Many young girls fall prey to human traffickers. They often leave their homes and villages in the provinces, seeking opportunities to support their families.
The traffickers are adept at convincing them to travel with them.
"I traveled through the islands. It took me 24 hours to reach Manila. When I got there, I found 16 girls staying in the same small place. Some were as young as 13-years-old," she said.
Maria was trapped and forced to have sex with a number of foreign and Filipino men.
Although she was there for only a few weeks before the Filipino police raided the apartment and freed her and the others, the damage had been done.
Maria routinely saw up to 13 customers a day. Her captors forced her to go to extreme lengths to deceive them into thinking she was a virgin in order to command higher prices.
"We were forced to take a cotton ball and dip it in pigeon's blood, then put that in our sex organ," she says. As outrageous as that is, it is not unusual.
In some parts of Asia, anti-trafficking groups have found that men believe sex with a virgin can cure their HIV/AIDS.
Social workers say that's led to a disturbing trend with tragic consequences for the victims of human trafficking. UNICEF estimates as many as 100,000 children work in the illegal sex trade in the Philippines.
Sex trafficking: The horror and the hope
(CNN) When Karla Jacinto was aged just 12 she fell for a 22-year-old man.
She ran away from the small Mexican town where she grew up so she could be with him. At first he treated her well, showering her with gifts. It wasn't long before he was forcing her to work as a prostitute.
She says that for the best part of four years, she saw up to 30 men a day, seven days a week.
"I had to close my eyes so that that I wouldn't see what they were doing to me, so that I wouldn't feel anything," she said.
By her own estimate, she was raped 43,200 times before she was rescued in 2008.
Her story is far from unique. There are around 4.5 million victims of sexual exploitation around the world. The vast majority of these are women and girls.
Sex trafficking has become a huge global industry, worth $99 billion a year. For the criminals the risks are relatively low, and the rewards high. On average, each sex trafficking victim creates nearly $22,000 in profits per year for their exploiters.
"Gustavo" is a convicted human trafficker, now serving time in a Mexican maximum security prison. For years, he lured girls away from their families with gifts and romantic promises, before forcing them into prostitution by threats, coercion and/or physical and verbal abuse.
"The faster they fall in love and leave with you, the faster the business starts making money and the less cash you have to spend showering them with gifts and going out," Gustavo said. "To me, the girls meant a source of income, merchandise you can buy, trade or sell."
These days, he says he's a changed man, a born-again Christian. He says people need to know that there are still many men doing what he used to do: preying upon young, innocent girls and luring them into prostitution.
"They don't know that behind Prince Charming there's a monster wearing a mask. A monster that is going to lead them into a world of prostitution and exploitation."
These stories are harrowing, but amidst the horror, there is hope: the women who escape lives of exploitation, and the organizations that help them.
Women like Jennifer Kempton, from Columbus, Ohio, who spent more than five years in forced prostitution and addicted to drugs.
She was tattooed by her traffickers, "branded" to mark her as property. But she eventually escaped and got her tattoos covered, changing the way she saw herself.
Kempton wanted other survivors to experience the freedom she had found, so she started a nonprofit organization -- Survivor's Ink -- that pays for trafficking survivors to have their branding tattoos covered by new tattoos of their choosing.
Or women like Rachel McCool, whose story shows there is a life for survivors.
McCool grew up in a small Georgia town and was forced to prostitute at a strip club. She eventually left that life behind her and enrolled in a center for trafficking victims called Wellspring Living.
She is now 28 with a beautiful son and an optimism about the future.
"I have a whole new appreciation for the color of the sky, because when you're an addict and when you're in bondage, you see everything as black and white, as gray," she said. "I didn't see the beauty of this world, this world we're living in. Yeah, there's a lot of hurt and I understand that too, but there's a lot of beauty and there's a lot of freedom."