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Rocky Mount native shares story of sex trafficking ordeal in new documentary

Posted January 20, 2020 3:49 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2020 7:12 p.m. EST

— An estimated 4.8 million people worldwide are victims of sex trafficking, including 1 million children.

"Blind Eyes Opened" is a documentary about the magnitude of the problem and some Christian organizations that are making a difference in helping survivors. One of the six women featured in the film, which will be shown Thursday at some 800 theaters nationwide, is Rocky Mount native Niki Rowe Cross.

When Cross was 15 years old, she took off with a group of teens to go to a concert in Greensboro without her parents' permission. There, she met a man who told her he could help her with a singing career.

"He used that as his point of grooming," Cross, now 59, said recently.

The man took her to Ohio, where he and two other men forced her up the stairs of a home.

"I didn't know what was at the top of the stairs, but I knew it wasn't going to be good. I kicked, I screamed," she said.

Cross found herself shackled in an attic with two other children – a brother and sister. Cross said they shared a dirty mattress and were sold for sex up to 50 times a day.

"We were hosed down with a water hose when the smell was too rough for them. Our food was dog food put on paper plates, slung across the floor to us," she said. "There was a lot of physical damage done that the human body should not ever have to endure."

The torture went on for a year before Cross was able to escape as her abuser planned to kill her. He had already slit her throat, she said, when a few concerned people in the community who knew what was happening were able to get her away and nurse her back to health.

When she called her parents, "to hear my mother cry that way, I can't even describe how that made me feel," she said.

Cross has now made a life out of helping others. She founded STAR, or Stop the Abuse and Rescue, in Florida to help other victims, and intends to open a branch of the organization in North Carolina, after recently moving back to this state.

She said there are three stages for people who have been sold for sex: victim, survivor and thriver. She counts herself in that last category and has a message for other victims.

"You don't deserve that kind of treatment, you were never created for that type of treatment and there is healing for you," she said.

"Blind Eyes Opened" can be seen at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Raleigh Grande and Regal North Hills Stadium 14 theaters in Raleigh and the Regal Crossroads Stadium 20 in Cary.

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