SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Alicia Tappan feels a little nervous as she prepares to virtually reconnect with the man who, years ago, helped her when others tried to shame and silence her.
“I’m going to cry happy tears, I think, because I really am grateful for this man,” said Tappan.
“This man” stepped up, when other school staff members tried to hush up, the story of the night Tappan, a teenager then, was raped.
When she told him that she was drugged by a high school coach, and sexually traded by classmates, “this man” refused to look the other way. After 20 years, Tappan finally gets to reconnect with Adam Benschoter to thank him for saving her life.
“I didn’t have the courage or the bravery to be able to speak up for myself after I’d been silenced by my peers,” said Tappan. “So going to authorities was not even a question in my mind. Because of the humiliation that I endured, I was very suicidal and I didn’t have a reason to live anymore.”
Benschoter reported the coach’s crimes to police, leading them to video of the rape and ultimately sending the coach to prison.
“All I did was tell her story. It was her bravery,” said Benschoter. “I’m glad I was there because as you can see, what an amazing person she is and what she’s doing.”
Tappan is now the Executive Director of The Secret Place of Northwest Florida where she educates the public on how to identify human trafficking and go to police, even if all they have is a suspicion.
“Still befuddles me, and then even back then I didn’t realize how many, how much grief you had to go through with all of the adults,” Benschoter said to Tappan.
Talking to him years later, only emboldens Tappan’s mission to help “safe people” identify the signs of human trafficking.
“They’re not going to come and tell you, hey, I’m being trafficked. You know, most likely they’re going to tell you that they’re having like a hard time with something or they’re in an abusive relationship,” said Tappan.
“They’re showing things by not coming to class or changing their look. You know, one of the big signs of suicide is they chop off their hair, color it. They want to look like somebody else.”
Next week, Benschoter will be presented with a Mandated Reporter Award during a special event hosted by The Secret Place involving a special showing of the documentary, ‘Surviving Sex Trafficking.’