TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For four long years in Las Vegas, McKenzie Jordan was trafficked by her boyfriend at the time.
“I absolutely thought that there was not one kind man on earth that even existed,” Jordan said.
From 2012 to 2016, fear ruled her life.
“I was raped over and over again every single day by the men that bought me for sex,” Jordan recalled.
In the thick of it, all she was trying to do was survive.
“I was scared every single day whether I was going to make the amount of money that my trafficker was requiring me to make,” Jordan remembered. “Whether I was going to make it home safely to my kids, whether I was ever going to see them again, whether I was ever going to see my mom again.”
Candice Spangler said she aimlessly wandered the streets of the Midwest for more than 20 years.
“I never had anybody show any compassion or care,” Spangler said. “People would just drive by, not even identifying me.”
It’s a tough topic for anyone to recall, bringing tears to Spangler’s eyes.
“It got to a point where I didn’t even care anymore what happened,” Spangler said. “I was at a point where I was just ready to die. Like I could not continue to go on like that.”
Now, Spangler and Jordan are analysts in their third Skull Games, an anti-human trafficking event. The name comes from the brainwashing traffickers do to their victims to keep them docile. The people at Skull Games try to get into the minds of those same traffickers.
“So many children go missing and are trafficked here in America,” said Buddy Jericho. “It really is a major problem.”
Jericho is part of Echo Analytics Group. His team partners with Jeff Tiegs and All Things Possible Ministries for Skull Games. Even though the Games have only been around for eight months, they’ve already hosted five weekend-long sessions.
“Law enforcement sometimes don’t have the resources to track down some of these cold cases or identify some of these missing children,” Jericho explained. “So efforts like this, non-profit efforts to support them, have really started to grow.”
Before Skull Games starts, law enforcement gives volunteers some cold cases or areas to look at for human trafficking victims. Using open source intelligence like social media, public records, news and more, analysts put together a comprehensive report and give it back to police, who can rescue the survivors and sometimes arrest the criminals.
“Unfortunately, the crime of sex trafficking in America is just as bad, if not worse, than other places,” said Jeff Tiegs. “We just seem to hide it a little bit better.”
Previously, Skull Games identified more than 20 criminals and, more importantly, 44 victims.
“They think they have nothing else,” Tiegs said. “It’s been beaten into their mind that they’re garbage. Nobody wants them, nobody cares about them. You know, they’ll never be anything else. That’s a lie.”
This year’s Skull Games added 20 more victims to the list.
“If we weren’t doing this, in the case of this weekend,” Jericho said. “That’s 20 girls that maybe would have never been found.”
Volunteers are usually former military or law enforcement intelligence personnel, but some of the best work comes from survivors like Spangler and Jordan.
“We see you,” Spangler said. “You’re not alone, we care and we’re coming to help.”
While Spangler said she still feels those fight or flight instincts, Skull Games gave her a purpose.
“I’m not a victim any longer,” Spangler said. “I’m a survivor.”
Since there is such a need out there, there will be another Skull Games in November, though the date is not yet set. If you’d like to learn more about the Games, you can do so here.