JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — They were barely teenagers when they were snatched from Jacksonville’s Southside and forced into sex trafficking. At the ages of 12 and 13, Tatiana Yoguez and Nicole McCall’s innocence was stolen.
This is a problem in Jacksonville. Statistics show the city is third in the state for human trafficking.
“We all tried to protect each other. We did the best we could,” Tatiana Yoguez said while standing outside a Jacksonville apartment complex.
It’s been 20 years since these two women stood outside the apartment complex where they were trafficked.
“My memories of what happened here is a lot of drugs. A lot of alcohol and being raped repeatedly,” Yoguez explained.
This didn’t happen to them in some bigger city or a different state. It all took place in Jacksonville at multiple locations around town.
“We didn’t have our clothes, so even if we attempted to run out of the room, we would’ve been naked,” Nicole McCall remembered.
To understand their story better and how this all happened, we need to go back to a cold day in January.
The year was 2002 and three friends, Tatiana, Nicole and Jessica, were walking home after spending some time at the mall earlier in the day.
“It was a nice quiet neighborhood, never any trouble in the area,” McCall said.
However, trouble was waiting for them when three young men drove up in a car.
“We decided to get in the car with them,” McCall added. “They said they would take us home, and we trusted them.”
When they got into that car, Tatiana said their attitudes changed. The men said they weren’t taking them home.
“At that point, we realized we made a bad decision,” Yoguez remembered. “We all looked at each other and it was just like, ‘What do we do now?'”
The women say they were brought to a motel on Jacksonville’s westside and what happened next is something they will never forget.
“As soon as we got through the door, he told us to strip down,” Yoguez explained. “He took our clothes from us. Everything we had. He took from us.”
After that, they say they were forced to take pills and drink alcohol. They were just children and helpless.
“We didn’t have a choice whether we wanted to take them or not,” Yoguez said. “It was, ‘Here are these pills. Wash them down with alcohol.”
“It was Hennessy,” McCall added. “I remember the smell and taste, and he also gave us cocaine. So he forced us to do these drugs.”
From there, men started coming into the room and taking turns raping the young girls. For almost a month, they lived this life and nightmare.
We pleaded with him to please let us go. We’re 12, 13, 14. We won’t tell. Just let us go. He had no empathy. He had no care,” Yoguez remembered. “It was, ‘It doesn’t matter. I don’t care how old you are. You’re with me now.'”
From motels, to strip clubs, to homes, to apartments, the young girls held out hope they would be able to escape. But as each day went by, that hope faded.
“I thought we were going to die there. I thought he was going to use us up and kill us,” McCall said.
That was until one day, when one of the men watching them realized how young they were and felt bad about their situation.
“He threw clothes on the ground and just opened up that back door. And he was like, ‘Get out while you can. This is your opportunity,'” McCall remembered. “So, we looked at each other. Took that opportunity. We threw them shirts on, and we just ran out.”
After escaping, they were reunited with their families. You would think their story would have a happy ending. But, that’s not what happened.
“We weren’t treated that great from officials. We were treated as runaways, promiscuous runaways,” Yoguez said.
The girls said they were given little resources or help for what they had been through and were sent back to school.
“I attempted suicide. When I got back home, I tried to take all of my mom’s pills that were in her medicine cabinet,” McCall said.
As adults in their 30s, they’re now healing.
“While I was in therapy, I started to learn more about myself and what I had experienced. I realized I was in fact a sex trafficking victim,” McCall said. “I shared it with Tatiana, and I was like, ‘We fall under that. We were victims.'”
That healing, now in the form of a book they wrote sharing their life story to help others.
As for Jessica, the third girl who was kidnapped and released with them, she was tragically murdered years later.
Their main trafficker, he was also murdered after serving some time in jail.
Tatiana Yoguez is now a survivor advocate. Nicole McCall also works with a number of non-profits devoted to human trafficking.
They both help with law enforcement training.FIRST COAST NEWS