SEATTLE -- Nearly 10 years after escaping the life of prostitution, Alisa Bernard said she had no option but to choose the website that served as her main source of business – a website now shut down by law enforcement.
"I literally broke down in tears," said Bernard. "It was a lot like suddenly seeing my pimp and every single buyer that had ever bought me suddenly arrested."
On Thursday, local law enforcement revealed details on something it called Operation No Impunity. Twelve brothels were busted, according to officials, while 13 people were arrested for running an elaborate prostitution scheme operated through a website TheReviewBoard.net and an organization called "The League."
It was a world Bernard knew all too well.
"Most of my time was spent on the (message boards) in come capacity or another," she explained. "It really was a terrible experience."
The arrests marked the culmination of an investigation stretching back to the spring of 2015 into the online sex trade and human trafficking.
"The idea that a website can stay operating, even though people are being sold for trafficked sex every day, is kind of mind boggling," said Robert Beiser with Seattle Against Slavery, which works with survivors.
Bernard also helps those that have escaped a life of prostitution. Though she acknowledges there are other websites available for sex trade, the fact that one of the more prominent sites is gone provides some sign of progress.
"That means there are 18-to-20,000 men who are not buying sex on that site," she said. "They have officially lost their victim population."