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The story is chilling in its content, but the end brings relief. If only every kid could have loving parents like Gordy and Robyn, who would’ve done anything for anyone of their children, especially their ‘baby’ Brianna, the youngest of five. Every kid deserves a friend like Evan who knew to speak up, and an educated police officer who knew what needed to be done, and strong Defenders who were willing to get involved during a busy Christmas season.
How could her parents have known she would be Chosen?
Brianna had just turned eighteen, and she thrived in the freedom her parents had given her to excel and achieve. When Brianna called her mother to say she was going to stay overnight at a girlfriend’s house, Robyn didn’t think twice. But then Brianna didn’t come home. When Robyn tried to phone, and there was no answer, each attempt brought mounting panic.
When someone finally picked up the phone, Robyn had a moment of relief — but then she heard a man’s voice, her blood ran cold. “Sounds like her parents,” he said to someone else. He chuckled. “If they only knew where she was!” He laughed again. For the first time, there was no doubt: Her daughter was in serious trouble. She made frantic calculations. Brianna was legally an adult; she had a legal right to leave, to do anything she wanted. She had one of the family’s cars; she could go wherever she wanted. And she had accumulated her own savings account; she had money to burn.
But where was she, and with whom…?
What her parents couldn’t know was that for months, sex-traffickers had been posing as ordinary customers in the restaurant where Brianna worked. They had wormed their way into her confidence, convinced her that it was time to do something daring. The “daring move”? Taking off on her own for a Christmas vacation in Phoenix. They were even going to buy her plane ticket.
By the grace of God, someone made a small but fateful decision: to return the family car. Brianna contacted a buddy named Evan and told him she was going to bring the car to him; then she would be off to Phoenix! Evan, she said, should return the car to her family.
One of the unseen heroes in this story? Brianna’s friend, Evan. His father had shared with him what he had learned at Rotary, about the signs of trafficking and what could happen to unsuspecting girls. Every young person needs to know what Evan knew so they can defend their friends. Evan’s call to his dad set off a chain of protection for Brianna.
Her parents got the word and rushed to Evan’s place. The police had already placed a call to “someone named Linda” who knew something about this type of situation.
That someone was Linda Smith. In her own words she describes the next few hours:
I arrived in the dark and the rain, and found Brianna distraught and impatient. I tried to explain what might actually have happened. She might be involved with traffickers, who often engage in sophisticated deception strategies, trapping even the smartest of pretty girls.
I knew she could bolt, and her parents might never see her again. So I reached out to her as gently as possible, and invited her to go with me to a restaurant nearby, just to talk. Maybe she’d like to learn more about how traffickers work? We left together (as I silently thanked God for giving me favor with the girl), leaving them to wait — for several hours, as it turned out — to see what Brianna would do next.
It was the middle of the night when I finally brought her back to them — in the parking lot of a local store, where I felt they would be safe for the moment. Brianna wanted to go home. They wilted with relief.
I explained to them that the traffickers had Brianna’s ID, so they knew where she lived — which meant they might come after her. At the very least, they needed to store her car someplace else, so visitors wouldn’t know she was home.
Her parents arranged to park the car in the garage at the hospital where Robyn worked.
Later that same night, a car crawled onto the family’s property, headlights off, and not seeing her car, they turned around and left. Law enforcement officers speculated that Brianna had become too high a risk, so the traffickers were moving on to other targets. In any case, phone records revealed that the traffickers had several other girls in the deception process.
The family learned later that Brianna had already been shown like property to prospective buyers, and her airline tickets had already been purchased; she was being moved to Phoenix for New Year’s Eve parties there. There, finally, she would have learned the real reason she was in Phoenix.
Brianna began to heal from the trauma, and wanted to fight back. She was not just afraid for herself, but with all she learned from Shared Hope, when she realized what could have happened to her, she was afraid for every young girl in the world. “She was determined to tell her story,” her mother says, “so it wouldn’t happen to someone else. We supported her decision to be a voice because we were at such a loss on how to deal with the fact that someone can come into your child’s life with such an evil agenda, calculated and practiced.”
Brianna’s father, Gordon, pleads from the depth of a father’s being, “I just couldn’t protect her. I didn’t know she was in danger.” He urges other parents to learn how traffickers operate, and to warn their kids. “There is much we still don’t know about those who preyed on our child and nearly stole her future,” they relate. “What we do know, though, is that we were not prepared to protect her. We had not told her about trafficking, and how the traffickers work, because we didn’t know ourselves. If this could happen to us, it could happen to any family.” Click here to get your free download copy of the Chosen film today and share it with a parent or teen.
“All we can do is speak out, and educate, to save the children yet to be targeted, and stop the evil from succeeding.”
The Defender’s in the story? Vern Smith drove with his wife to meet Brianna, and sat in the car at the restaurant to keep watch that cold December night. The police officer, John Chapman, was also watching from nearby in case the traffickers somehow had followed her. John had been notified by a Rotarian Ron Hart, who had been called by Evan’s father, Newt, that there may be a problem. That set off the chain of events that led to Brianna’s safe return to her family.
The result of this harrowing experience was Chosen, a powerful Shared Hope video teaching tool that tells Brianna’s story, among others, and gives children, parents, educators, law enforcers, and others the information and resources to protect themselves from sex-traffickers. Many thousands — in schools, churches, and other community settings — have seen the video. And it continues to make a powerful impact.
Brianna’s parents urge, “Every single family should learn the signs of trafficking to protect their kids or grandkids. Every family should see Chosen.”
Click here to get your free download copy of the Chosen film today.