‘Not fair at all’: Sex trafficking victim says Katie Britt distorted her story for political purposes

The woman whose story of being sex trafficked as a child was used in Katie Britt’s State of the Union rebuttal speech has said her horrific ordeal was misused by the Republican senator.

Related: Katie Britt defends sex trafficking story she falsely links to Biden presidency

“I think she should first take into account what really happens before telling a story of that magnitude,” Karla Jacinto Romero told CNN in an interview Sunday. “Someone using my story and distorting it for political purposes is not fair at all.”

During her widely criticized speech, Britt said that she met a woman during a trip to the border in 2023 who told her that she had been “sex-trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12”.

“She told me not just that she was raped every day – but how many times a day she was raped,” she said. “We wouldn’t be okay with this happening in a third-world country. This is the United States of America. And it’s past time we start acting like it. [Joe] Biden’s border crisis is a disgrace. It’s despicable, and it’s almost entirely preventable.”

In the speech, Britt seemed to imply that Jacinto Romero was sex trafficked in the United States during Biden’s presidency. Jacinto Romero in fact was trafficked in Mexico from 2004 to 2008, during George W Bush’s presidency. Jacinto Romero was also not trafficked by drug cartels, as Britt said in her speech, but by a pimp who was a part of a family who kidnapped young girls.

Britt also said that when she first took office, “I did something different. I traveled to the Del Rio sector of Texas, where I spoke to a woman who shared her story with me.” But Jacinto Romero said that she met Britt at an event at the border, along with other government officials and activists, instead of a one-on-one meeting as her speech suggests.

“I hardly ever cooperate with politicians because it seems to me that they only want an image. They only want a photo – and that to me is not fair,” Romero said.

Britt on Sunday went on Fox News to defend her telling of the story, saying that she “very clearly said I spoke to a woman who told me about when she was trafficked when she was 12. So I didn’t say a teenager – I didn’t say a young woman.

“To me, it is disgusting to silence the voice of telling the story of what it is like to be sex trafficked,” she told Fox.

In a statement to the Washington Post’s factchecker, who deemed that Britt had misled voters in her speech, a spokesperson for Britt said that she “was 100% correct”.

“There are more innocent victims of that kind of disgusting, brutal trafficking by the cartels than ever before,” the statement said, blaming Biden for empowering “cartels and [acting] as a magnet to a historic level of migrants making the dangerous journey to our border”.

The Washington Post pointed out that Donald Trump, when president, had made similar misleading claims that “thousands of young girls and women” were being trafficked across the border.

In an investigation, the Post found that most sex trafficking cases involve legal border crossings, visa fraud and air travel, rather than people smuggled across the border.

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