JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After two years of allegedly being held captive and forced to have sex with strangers, investigators say a 26-year-old woman can finally start to heal.
Esthela Clark is in jail, accused of abuse. Investigators are crediting a local church member with saving the victim.
After she happened to see the visible signs of abuse on the victim one day and started asking questions.
The criminal complaint against Clark said she smuggled a Mexican woman to Jacksonville, promising to pay her to be her surrogate, but quickly broke that promise.
According to reports, Clark tried to artificially inseminate her with no medical supervision. When that didn’t work, she forced the woman to have sex with strangers.
The report says Clark physically beat the victim four or five times. It also states if the victim tried to escape, her family and child in Mexico would be harmed.
A major problem is that northeast Florida isn’t equipped to handle the care of women coming out of this type of abuse.
Human trafficking expert Dr. Lawanda Ravoira said there are still obstacles ahead.
“This really underscores the lack of integrated service network for victims of trafficking. It doesn't exist in our community,” Ravoira said. “We have to work hard to bring that service network here.”
Investigators say the victim was held captive at an apartment complex in Arlington for two years.
Ravoira said the victim will need services like a safe house, but Jacksonville does not have one locally.
“This is happening so much in the shadows. We are just not aware of how often it's happening, and as a result, we have not been able to get the funding to provide a comprehensive integrated service network,” Ravoira said.
Florida ranks third in the nation for the most calls to the national hotline of human trafficking and Jacksonville is the third highest in the state.
Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi convened the statewide council on human trafficking Thursday to combat the issue.