Postal Worker Reunited With Teen He Saved From Sex Trafficking
The story brings attention to the problem of sex trafficking in the US.
Editor's note: This post contains language and details of sexual violence.
Ivan Crisostomo was on his regular mail route on June 8 in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, California, when he saw 16-year-old Crystal Allen sobbing and running nearby.
"I heard this crying when I came out of the vehicle, so I approached her and I asked her. She was afraid, she didn't want to talk,” Crisostomo said, according to KRON-TV.
Crisostomo calmed Allen down and helped her call her mother. Then he let her sit in the his work truck until help arrived.
He soon discovered that his kind gesture was really an act of heroism — Allen had just fled from a car after being held for three months as a sex slave.
"What Ivan did was wonderful,” police deputy David Cuneo told KPIX. “He stepped up where a lot of people would've just continued driving down the road, and he made a huge positive impact on this young girl's life.”
The two were reunited on Aug. 2, and Allen gave the hero postal worker a thank you card.
But the feel-good reunion doesn't cover up the harrowing nature of the larger story, and the issue of human trafficking in the US.
Allen, who lives in Placerville, California, believed she was going to a friend’s house when she left a group home earlier this year. But the friend she was traveling with turned her over to a trafficker, according to the Daily Mail.
"They made it impossible [to escape]," Allen told KCRA. "They had guard dogs and people that would watch us all the time and not let us leave. I was tied to chairs."
For the next three months, Allen was frequently raped and abused. She finally escaped when she grabbed her abductor's cellphone, jumped out of the car, and ran for her life.
Sexual slavery is a pervasive global problem, and it thrives in the US. Out of the 600,000 to 800,000 victims trafficked annually, between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked in the US, according to the State Department.
However, more cases are being reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and some states have made it mandatory for truck drivers to receive training in how to spot trafficking if they see it on the road.
“I don't see myself as a hero," Crisostomo told KCRA. "I see my myself as a person who really wants to help. That's what I did. I helped."
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 or text "HELP" or "INFO" to 233733.
If you have experienced sexual abuse, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org. You can find international resources here.