BOSTON (CBS) – Just looking at Tanee Hobson, it’s hard to believe she’s 21-years old. She’s not even five feet tall, has a baby face, a youthful laugh, and a childlike smile.
All of that makes it even harder to believe that seven years ago she was forced to be a prostitute.
At the time, Hobson lost her self-respect, her dignity, and above all, her childhood.
“The biggest thing that I lost was my innocence and I can’t get that back anymore,” said Hobson.
WBZ-TV’s Alana Gomez reports.
Hobson was a runaway from foster care. She felt like she had no one to turn to and found herself alone at Dudley Station with no destination. That’s when a man in his mid-twenties introduced himself.
“He pretended to want to be my boyfriend. For six months it was perfect. When I wanted something he gave it to me. He said ‘I love you.’ That was his way of grooming me to fall for him,” said Hobson.
And when she did fall for him, he kicked her while she was down.
“He just punched me and at that moment my mind just blanked and I didn’t know what was going on,” said Hobson.
Next thing she knew she was standing on Blue Hill Avenue.
“When the first car came up and I saw a person inside I got sick but I knew I had to get in,” said Hobson.
Instead of getting help from law enforcement, she was punished.
“Cops just kept arresting me and arresting me so to me, I was doing something wrong,” said Hobson.
Hobson finally found the courage to leave after four years. Now she’s using her experience to send a message to lawmakers.
At an emotional briefing at the state house, Hobson recounted her version of hell.
“I’m asking that you don’t turn your back on people like so many did me,” Hobson told a room full of state officials and legislators.
One bill would treat minors found working as prostitutes like victims instead of criminals.
“We really want to do all we can to attack the problem by looking at the young women first as victims and getting them out of the life they are leading,” said Daniel Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney and one of the main sponsors of the bill.
Another bill sponsored by Attorney General Martha Coakley would crack down on those organizing the commercial sex trade.
“We need tools to go after those who are the demand, the johns and those who profit off young women and men and that’s just wrong,” said Coakley.
Massachusetts is one of just four states with no human trafficking laws.
Local social service agencies report seeing dozens of underage prostitutes annually in Suffolk County. They are typically 12-15 years old and come from the cities as well as the suburbs.
Hobson is now a staff member at “My Life, My Choice,” an organization that offers resources to young women caught in prostitution.
She hopes her message will go directly to the girls who haven’t found help yet.
“I know there’s a way for you to get out and I’m gonna push for it to happen,” said Hobson.