THE WOODLANDS, Texas (FOX 26) - Tímea Nagy is able to connect with victims of human trafficking because she knows what "the life" is like.
"My first clients were three Russian guys, young guys, and they ripped me apart," recalled Nagy. "And there was no one there to save me. The security guard came in only when they passed their time. They bought 45 minutes."
It all began in 1998, when Nagy was 20 years old and her family fell on hard times in their native Hungary. To help, she responded to an ad in a newspaper to work in Canada.
"I came to Canada and I thought I was going to be a nanny or a babysitter," said Nagy.
Instead, for the next three months, she was trafficked by a group of Hungarian and Canadian men.
"I worked 20 hours a day," added Nagy. "I ate once a day. I went from 125 pounds to 89 pounds in two weeks. They told us every day what’s going to happen to us if we escape."
Until one night, a security guard at the strip club where she was being forced to work got her a cab and helped her escape.
"You would have thought I felt like ,'Yay!,' but I was so scared," described Nagy to FOX 26 News. "I was sweating. I needed to throw up. I had nausea. I was looking around constantly. When are they coming after me? I was thinking like, 'Oh, they killed my family.'" She said although at other times, she was physically able to leave, the control her traffickers had over her mind was paralyzing.
Before Nagy escaped, she said she came in contact with police but she was too afraid of her traffickers and did not report them.
"I think the biggest myth about human trafficking is that people are chained and robbed and taken and kidnaped and locked in," explained Nagy. "In some cases that might be true, but most of the time, the chain is built in our brain."
A decade after Nagy escaped, her journey towards healing led her to work with law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada and start her own non-profit group to help survivors in Canada.
In October, Nagy joined the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance for the Southern Region of Texas for Operation Cross County, a sting operation in The Woodlands. She spoke to the officers to help them see the invisible chains.
"What I love about about working with you guys is that when I'm out and I'm able to give you the feeling that we are in and able to help you get in our shoes just for a minute," said Nagy as she addressed officers during a morning briefing. "Everything that you do after is just magic."
Breaking the chains takes time, sometimes even years. Nagy said it all starts with meeting the victim where she is and letting her know her story as a survivor is waiting to be written.
"The more of that feeling you give them, they go back [to their trafficker] and then the worse and worse they feel there, so they get hungry for feeling like a real human being," concluded Nagy.
To report human trafficking, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by phone at 1-888-373-7888.