CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Jasmine Marino of Southern New Hampshire is one of the many survivors of human trafficking. Now 41, she said she was just 19-years-old when she became snared in the lifestyle.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, aiming to clear up the many misconceptions about the crime as well as its victims. NEWS10s spoke with Marino and the FBI about the reality of human trafficking, and what’s going on right here in the Capital Region.

“I wasn’t addicted to drugs. But by the time I exited around 27, I had a full blowup heroin addiction, completely homeless, sleeping on park benches,” Marino said. “Never would have imagined that’s where I would end up.”

She said she was initially introduced to prostitution by a man she thought loved her. “I thought that I willingly chose it,” she said. “I didn’t see the manipulation, the brainwashing.”

Human trafficking is defined by the Department of Defense as “a crime in which force, fraud or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services or commercial sex.” And the FBI says 90% of their human trafficking cases involve prostitution, with the biggest misconception being that the victims typically come from outside the U.S.

“You could have a young girl who doesn’t come from a home that has a lot of money, and she sees kids at school with new clothes, that they get their nails done,” said Janeen Diguiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albany Field Office. “A predator can pick up on that and say, ‘Oh, I can buy you new clothes. Do you want to get your nails done?’ And they think that this person is their friend or becomes their boyfriend. And that’s when the sex trafficking starts.”

The FBI has taken a victim-centered approach. But prosecuting their traffickers isn’t that easy, says Carla Freedman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. “Cases that are very difficult without victim cooperation. And some of these victims don’t see themselves as victims, to begin with,” she said.

That was the case with Marino, until she sought help. But she got clean, and she has become an advocate for other trafficking victims, as well as a symbol that help is out there.

Remember that there are resources. The FBI has victim specialists who offer things like shelter and medical care. If you or someone you know needs help getting out of a trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.