Alexandrea Berte, now 20, vanished from her Wilmington, North Carolina home in July. Since that time, Laura Berte had to implore police three times to place her on a national missing persons list, as Allie was 19 at the time. After officials acquiesced, Allie was pulled over for a traffic violation in a car full of other girls, cell phones, gift cards, and some marijuana. As it turns out, she had been listed on adult services site Backpage.com in at least five states over the last five weeks of her disappearance. This brings me to the really wack part: Allie Berte, who has the mental capacity of a nine-year-old, who is on the honor roll in her special needs classes at the local high school, is now being slapped with a federal sex crimes charge. The three other women in the car-one was an 18 year old from Lumberton, another from North Carolina and one from Kansas-were released.
Says her mother, "My daughter's not a criminal. She doesn't have the mental capacity to come up with this idea on her own. This is bigger than her and bigger than most people in this community know, and it's happening right underneath our noses." Indeed, recent statistics show that North Carolina is among the top ten states for human trafficking. There are no age restrictions on sentencing for prostitution, and minors are charged as adults (which experts say is a logistical error: minors would be considered trafficking victims. Umm, you'd think someone would have done the paperwork to fix that Big-Time Fail.)
Allie had been through difficult times in the last few years: she left her 18-month-old baby with her grandparents and lived in her car before moving to Wilmington with her mother earlier in 2012. Her mother also makes some nonspecific, veiled allusions to sexual abuse in Allie's past ("I did not realize that her childhood traumas made her a perfect target to be a victim of human trafficking.") She continues, "It is scary and there's a perception out there-in this community, in society-that girls of this age are making the choice... And I just feel there are many, many girls out there that are in similar circumstances."
I have an idea! Why don't we start charging actual nine-year-old victims of human trafficking? That'll clear it all right up.