MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - "When people first hear of sex trafficking, we think immediately overseas, and we think held captive,” said Tina Frundt, Founder, Courtney's House.
But Tina Frundt knows the reality of sex trafficking and its merciless grip on America first hand.
"You don't see the signs as a child,” said Frundt. “This person didn't try to have sex with me. I thought this person was just being nice; he told me to go to college. Then, when you trust them, it changes."
It was a relationship that began when Tina was just 13-years-old, and the man was 15-years her senior.
A year after their meeting, she left her hometown with him, and the trafficker made Tina a sex slave.
"I was in the life for a very long time, for over 10 to 15 years, and that's why I started Courtney's House,” said Frundt. “It's not easy to get out. I didn't have the services that I needed."
Since 2008, Tina's non-profit has helped more than 650 victims escape from being trafficked in the DMV area through counseling, therapy and fun.
Over a period of four years, from January 2013 through January 2017, there were 221 confirmed or highly suspected child sex trafficking victims in Maryland, according to the University of Maryland's School of Social Work.
"[My sister asked], ‘There's trafficking in Montgomery County? There's trafficking in Frederick County?’” said Jodi Finkelstein, Executive Director, Montgomery County’s Commission for Women.
In 2016, Montgomery County Police's Vice and Intelligence Unit seized more than $140,000 from stings involving human trafficking, prostitution and solicitation.
"I loved living there. It's a beautiful place, but it is a lot of trafficking, just like anywhere else,” said Frundt.
"It's an organized thing. It can be underground [and] maybe not so noticeable that people see,” said Dr. Rafiah Prince, Supervisory Therapist, Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program. “And, it's very lucrative."
Maryland's most populous county is vulnerable for two reasons: money and location.
"It's easy to manipulate children, because children don't think they're being manipulated, especially if you live in the suburbs,” said Frundt. “You're not as street-savvy; you don't know."
But there's been a recent increase in action against trafficking, as investigators find the internet widening the problem.
"It's becoming a really big issue with the onset and the ease of the internet,” said Laura Erstling, social worker, Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2014, Executive Ike Leggett created the Human Trafficking Task Force in Montgomery County; a year later, Maryland established a workgroup to study safe harbor policy.
One of Governor Hogan's appointees is Tina.
"The sadder thing about this, this may have happened many years ago, but it actually happens exactly like this every day still,” said Frundt.
But, it’s a reality Frundt is built to battle.