Trafficked, By Her Boyfriend; Sakura’s Story

Sex trafficking survivor Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell (Image by David Koehn, NET)
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December 28, 2017 - 6:45am

She hated what was happening, but didn’t know how to escape being trafficked by her boyfriend. This story from a Nebraska woman is part of the NET News “Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories” documentary. Be aware this story deals with subject matter of an adult nature.

Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell's story is part of the new NET News documentary "Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories." You can watch it online on the "Sold for Sex" project website, where you can also watch "Sold for Sex: Trafficking in Nebraska" and access additional video and audio content.


"Sold for Sex: Survivor Stories" includes:

  • The powerful stories of three different Nebraska trafficking survivors.
  • Interviews with experts on how people become trafficking victims, and why the crime is often not reported or punished.
  • Perspective from more than 20 Nebraska trafficking survivors compiled for a new report.


Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell in her Sarpy County Courthouse office. (Image by David Koehn, NET)

From a small county courthouse office adorned with empowering posters and things celebrating her love of coffee, Sakura Yodogawa-Campbell helps crime victims navigate the legal process. She works as a crime victim advocate for the Sarpy County Attorney’s Office, and she knows what it’s like to be a crime victim.

Sakura says her first rape came as a sixth grader. Many more followed in high school and college. Bad relationships and alcoholism were the norm. Then a job transfer took her to Kansas, where she met a guy she thought was “perfect.” But the day after their first date, he showed up at her house to move in. Sakura was confused, hours away from family and friends, and quickly under his control.

“From there he controlled everything I did, made sure that he knew where I was at all times,” Yodogawa-Campbell said in an interview for the NET News “Sold for Sex” project. “I could not move in that town without him knowing exactly where I was.”

Soon they were frequenting swingers clubs and strip clubs, spending entire paychecks on lap dances and “extras.”

“I can remember going in the back of one in particular and they had these booths in a row where you could rent videos and watch it in there and do what you do,” she recalled. “They had big windows so that people could see in there. I can remember we had to have sex in there and allow other people to watch. Again while this is all going on I’m thinking, ‘This is horrible, I hate this, this is not me but I’m stuck. I don’t know where to go, I don’t know how to get out.’ You have to go with it because standing up to it, saying ‘no,’ that just gets you beat."

Sakura later realized she was being trafficked by a man who would beat her, then tell her he loved her. It’s a crime defined by force, fraud or coercion.

“I would put my check in, he would take the money out and then the only way I could get my money back to pay for rent was we'd go to these sex shops, these strip clubs. We did the swingers thing. We called those 800 numbers or whatever those numbers are for phone sex. We were doing all of these things and I didn't have a choice in this. It's like you do it or you get beat. You've got your force, you’ve got your fraud, you've got your coercion.

“Again at that time I'm not thinking this is trafficking and this is really horrible,” she said. “I'm just thinking well this really stinks but I'll get through it. Yeah, I literally had to essentially turn tricks to get my money back.

“I think the entry or however you want to call it is the same. You are targeted. The person, they are looking for their targets. They are looking for that vulnerability. My trauma history created a huge vulnerability, whether I realized it or not.”

At the time Sakura thought her only option was leave her job, apartment and possessions; everything she had worked for. “The thought of leaving my job, something I felt I had worked so hard to prove to myself and to others that I can do this. Everything that I had, I had worked for and it's so difficult to walk away from that. I felt like I’m stuck.”

It took watching the events of 9-11 unfold, with her mother on the phone, to realize she needed to be with family. She needed to get out. Sakura moved back to Omaha. The break wasn’t easy. There were threats and phone calls. Sakura even sometimes felt bad leaving him. After a couple months she changed her phone number and never heard from him again. Sakura never filed charges.

We asked Sakura if she ever wanted to have the man who trafficked her held accountable. “Oh yeah,” she said. “I do, but I can't think of anything that the criminal justice system has to offer for me in this case, that any system honestly has to offer. I can't think of anything that would, I don't know, make me feel better or anything like that.”

Now she also helps others understand sex trafficking, sometimes during training sessions for the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force.

Even when I'm deeply saddened by some of the stuff that I've experienced and as much as it pains me to actually talk about my own personal experience, it's given me the energy to say ‘stop.’ This has to end,” Yodogawa-Campbell said. “We can’t expect to sustain ourselves as human beings if we're continuing to do this. This is some of the worst stuff that you can do to another person, and it's easily stopped.

“I would not go back for anything because those experiences have put me in this seat today to where I can talk about the horrible things that human beings are doing to other human beings. And hopefully even one person is going to listen to my experience and believe me and realize ‘yes, this is horrible. There's something I can do in hopes that somebody else does not have to go through this.’”

Editor's note: This story is part of our "Best of 2017" Signature Story report.  The story originally aired and was published in February.



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