CINCINNATI - James and Athena Pond and their three children were living a perfectly fine life in 2004. They were happy and the family had always lived under the notion that they should give to others. When they saw a story on television about sex trafficking of little girls in Cambodia, they knew they had to do something.
"I don't think you can know that an issue like this is happening and know that there are literally thousands of girls that are suffering and that you might be able to do something to help them and not do it," said James Pond.
What they did was sell everything they owned and moved their three children halfway across the world to Cambodia to start Transitions Global . It's what they call an "after care" program for girls rescued from prostitution. There, they work on healing the girls, inside and out, and on helping them become educated to fulfill their life's goals.
James Pond says selling girls as young as 8 or 9 years old into sexual slavery is a global issue. He estimates in Cambodia alone there are 50,000 to 60,000 girls being trafficked.
Many ask, what exactly is sex trafficking? The National Human Trafficking Resource Center put together a fact sheet of what it means to be involved in sex trafficking. To read those facts, click here .
Pond says the damage to these girls mentally and physically is hard to imagine.
"When a girl has been in a brothel for a month, and seeing 10-20 customers a day, that's anywhere form three to 600 serial rapes that girl is going to undergo in a month," said Pond.
One young lady who has been through Transitions Global's program, Neth, was in a brothel for close to one year. Neth's mother sold Neth's virginity for $300 and then sold her to a pimp.
"When she was there," said Pond, "she went through some really brutal things ranging from being beaten and electrocuted to seeing anywhere from seven to 10 customers a day."
Neth is now 21 years old and a yoga instructor to the girls living at Transitions Global. But her wounds, so deep, may never heal. When asked if she is still afraid, Neth says yes, when she hears a door bell ring.
"Because when I lived in the brothel, when the people ring the bell, it means the guests come," said Neth. Those 'clients', or johns she says sometimes beat her.
Liya is another success story for Transitions Global. She survived, addicted to drugs, in a brothel in Cambodia for two years before being rescued. "The men would beat me with a stick," said Liya. "A long stick that is still painful to think about."
James Pond says this is not just a problem in Asia. He says Americans have to realize it's happening here and the FBI conducted raids across the country just this week. During the raids, 885 people were arrested. Of them, 99 are suspected pimps.
They rescued 69 children used in sex trafficking.
One ring broken up in Nashville rescued girls used as sex slaves as young as 12 in Tennessee, Minnesota and Columbus, Ohio.
"We have over 1,000 recorded cases of child sex trafficking of American children right here in Ohio," said Pond. Arrests were made this week in Cleveland and Toledo when police rescued two teenage girls, both listed as missing children. One of them is from Ohio, the other reportedly from Michigan.
And Pond says human trafficking is happening in Cincinnati and its suburbs.
"One of our board members was actually visiting here, was staying at a hotel and hired a limo service. The limo service started talking to him about why he was in town. He said he was just here to have some fun and they told him that the top floor of his hotel they had Romanian and Russian girls that he could purchased and they'd come sleep with him," Pond said.
Ohio's Attorney General put together a full report presenting the evidence of the prevalence of human trafficking in Ohio. To read the report, click here .
The Freedom Center also put together a comprehensive study of human trafficking in the Greater Cincinnati area. To read that report, click here .
According to Pond, one of the biggest problems is once these girls are rescued, there are few places for them to heal; places like Transitions Global in Cambodia where the rescued girls live together.
"The joy in this for me is seeing these girls smile again," said Pond. "Seeing them come in frightened and scared and alone and then finding some joy in their lives."
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sex trafficking, you can get help. Contact one of the following agencies:
To help stop sex trafficking, click here to donate to Transitions Global .
The FBI has led an undercover investigation to uncover sex trafficking rings. Watch the video below to see what one of their stings is like.
Copyright 2010 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
On Tuesday, family and friends welcomed home veterans who were flown to Washington, D.C., to reflect on their service to the United States.