Their captors walk up and down the line – picking them seemingly at random and tapping them on the shoulder – ‘You, you, you and you… come with me’.
In the back of a warehouse truck, they are driven for miles across the scorching Nevada desert until they reach a hotel. There, they are forced to have sex with up to 25 men one after the other.
This was life for Korean-born American Chong Kim who, at 19 years old, was sold as a domestic sex slave in 1994 to Russian gangsters and held captive for more than two years.
“The clients never came to the warehouse,” she recalled “That was just where we slept. There was nothing there but bed mats on the floor and we would just lay there.
“They would give us colouring books with fat crayons and we would colour. But then we would hear the knock outside the storage unit doors and have to all line up.
“If you were chosen, we would get in the truck and there would be a gallon of water between us. You could tell it was hot outside because it was made out of metal aluminium and it was too hot to touch.
“We were sweating when we got to the room and we’d get a make up bag and toiletries and they’d say ‘you have ten minutes to take a shower’. They would have lingerie laying on the bed.
“I remember sitting in the shower because it felt so good to be in water that I just cried. When I was done I had to basically lay in bed naked waiting for the customer to come in.”
About half of her clients were American and others were Russian but some had accents she wasn’t familiar with – they could have been British, Australian or European, she couldn’t tell.
“They all had one hour to spend time with us but most of the time they didn’t spend the whole hour, they just came in, raped us and then they would leave. And then we had to shower for the next client. That was pretty much our day.”
The traffickers would take up to 15 girls to ‘service’ hundreds of men in one day.
“One time, I could hear the screaming on the other side of the hotel room and I could tell another girl was being raped and she was screaming and it was really, really hard for me to concentrate.
“And when we got done throughout the day we would get so sore that I remember asking for a bag of ice and had to put it between my legs because it hurt so much.”
Sometimes the girls were returned to the warehouse, sometimes they didn’t. Any attempts at fighting back or escaping were met with brutal beatings and torture.
“I tried to escape numerous times,” says Chong, now 38. “I remember one time the warehouse truck stopped somewhere and we had to get out to get changed and use the bathroom and that’s when I started running.
“We were in the middle of the desert and I didn’t know where I was. The next thing I knew, I had what I think was a crowbar hit me in the back of the head. When I woke up, I was tortured. I was on a meat hook and beaten like a piñata. Other times they would bust both my knee caps or they would put me in a tub of ice naked.”
As time went on, she would witness as much cruelty as she was subjected to and she would regularly be transported with up to 50 other girls from warehouse to warehouse, state to state.
The girls were all ages and ethnicities, some having being trafficked through Europe or Russia before ending up in the USA.
“I witnessed murders, tortures, sodomy, rape,” she says quietly. “The youngest girl I saw there was just seven years old. They tied me down and made me watch her get raped by 12 adult men. It made me so sick to my stomach. I still see her face in my dreams.”
Forcefully injected with heroin, meth and cocaine and held in a dark, windowless warehouse, time ceased to exist.
“I never knew what time it was because we never had a window to look out. There were times when it would feel like forever,” she said.
“I turned into a puppet, I got tired of fighting back. There were moments where I asked for help and nobody helped me. The traffickers would say, ‘see you are nothing, that is why nobody is helping you’.
“We had no military guys or swat teams to come in and break down the doors and rescue us, that was a dream.”
Her only option was to gain the trust of her traffickers and rise up the ranks to find a way to escape.