Two sisters are urging others to be cautious after falling victim to a suspected human-trafficking attempt.
Alyson and Marsela Riddle were planning a shopping trip to an Indianapolis Ulta store when a disconcerting interaction with a stranger changed their plans. Alyson told Indiana’s WISH-TV that she and her sister were caught off guard in the parking lot.
A car pulled up beside Alyson and Marsela’s vehicle, and a woman, whom they didn’t know, stepped out and approached the sisters. “She had stood there for a moment, and then she knocked on my window,” Alyson recalled.
A family is warning people after they say their daughters were targeted in an attempted sex trafficking situation on the south side. Sierra Hignite reports.
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The stranger asked Alyson whether she knew of a man and a woman named Joe and Annette. Alyson replied in the negative; the woman told the sisters that she had been instructed by Joe and Annette to follow Alyson’s car.
“I rolled up my window and I told my sister to lock the doors,” Alyson explained. Describing the interaction as “really sketchy,” the sisters decided that it wasn’t safe to enter the mall and made moves to leave the parking lot.
“After that, [the woman] got back into her car and she, like, got on the phone with someone,” Alyson regaled. “So I was like, yeah we need to leave because, like, who knows? They could box us in or something.”
Recalling a cautionary tale from social media, the sisters then checked their car tires for nails to make sure that nobody had attempted to thwart their escape. Luckily, they found nothing.
The Riddle sisters learned their street smarts from their mother, Beverly, a counselor well versed in the signs and signals of potential human trafficking. Beverly’s advice to her daughters, and others, is to make a safety plan.
“I did, and I am grateful that [Alyson and Marsela] had their heads on their shoulders and they were thinking through what it is they needed to do,” Beverly said, “because it could have been a different outcome.”
Alyson, a lifeguard, took to social media to share her and Marsela’s parking lot experience. She told the news media that she received numerous direct messages from other girls who had had similarly disturbing experiences in the Greenwood, Indiana, area.
In response to WISH-TV’s coverage of the Riddle sisters’ experience, additional members of the public left Facebook comments offering support, urging others to exercise caution, and raising concerns about the finer details of the sisters’ story.
“So scary, I’m so glad that they are safe,” wrote one person, while another commented, “Be safe and alert!”
“[M]any human traffickers won’t just kidnap kids and people that they don’t know,” another posted. “These human traffickers don’t want to be found out … They are going to get close and develop a relationship with their victim before trafficking them.”
“You always need to be aware of your surroundings,” they added, “but also know your facts. We don’t need to send mass hysteria.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, “human trafficking” is an umbrella term used to refer to sex trafficking, involuntary servitude, or forced labor, as well as the selling of people, and can involve the movement or transportation of the victims.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline has handled 56,504 reported cases of human trafficking since 2007. “Cases,” they clarify, could involve multiple trafficking victims, while many still are likely to go unreported.
Reflecting on her and Marsela’s suspicious encounter, Alyson Riddle concluded, “You never really know or take it seriously until, I guess, something like that happens to you or almost happens to you.”