Liberator Awards recognize those who fight human trafficking in Ohio, Michigan

SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTVG) - It was a night full of music, fellowship and fun, but it also served a purpose.

"It's probably, I would say, one of the most horrific crimes there is," said Theresa Flores of human trafficking.

Flores is the founder of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution or S.O.A.P. Sunday her group recognized those from Ohio and Michigan who go above and beyond to fight human trafficking with The Liberator Awards at Lourdes University.

"I wish some of these people would have been there for me," said Flores.

Flores is no stranger to the world of human trafficking. She was forced into the dark crime at only 15-years-old after two men offered her a ride home from school.

"They didn't take me home, though," said Flores. "I ended up getting drugged and raped and then blackmailed for two years."

Flores eventually escaped her traffickers after her family moved away, but she was scarred emotionally and physically.

"It's your worst nightmare, you know?," said Flores. "It's something that you can't even explain."

To cope with her struggle Flores formed S.O.A.P. with the goal of helping other survivors. Today her group works with volunteers around the country to provide counseling and other resources to victims.

"It's given me the chance to be like, 'I'm not the only one that's been through this,'" said a human trafficking survivor who only wanted to be identified as Rita.

The Monroe woman is one of the survivors who benefited from S.O.A.P.'s outreach. Now she works as an advocate speaker and was nominated for a Liberator Award because of it.

"We have to educate one another," said Rita. "We have to make sure and tell people so it can end."

It's through the work of those like Rita that has Flores hopeful for a future free of human trafficking.

"I hope that one day this will be over," said Flores.

Toledo shined bright at Sunday's Liberator Awards. The University of Toledo's Interprofessional Education Program and International Justice Mission took home awards. Volunteer Brenda Holsey was also recognized for her efforts.