VANCOUVER - She felt threatened by her employer and the men that she was forced to have sex with for money, but a young woman who maintains she was lured into prostitution across two provinces told B.C. Supreme Court that asking police or friends for help was not as easy as a defence lawyer suggested.
The young woman, who cannot be named under a publication ban, testified at the trial of Reza Moazami on Tuesday that she agreed to work for the 29-year-old Vancouver man as an escort in 2010 while under the influence of GHB, a date-rape drug.
"I was given a home and a shelter by someone who promised me that I would be protected. . . someone who would try to create a kind of family where we worked," the woman told the court. "Even though it was all a lie, he kept me comfortable when I was on drugs."
She told the court that Moazami promised to keep her safe from "johns and police," but that sense of protection was shattered when he took her to Calgary and she was "bullied and threatened in Calgary in a hotel room with two much larger people than myself and a girl I was with."
Moazami did nothing because he had passed out, she said.
Moazami is charged with 36 counts including human trafficking, sexual exploitation, sexual interference and living off the avails of a juvenile involving 11 young victims.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The court heard Tuesday the witness broke free from Moazami in 2010 after working for him for about a month and a half. She left after police came to a Vancouver apartment one night and arrested Moazami on charges unrelated to the present proceedings.
Defence lawyer Danny Markovitz suggested that at that point, the young woman could have reported to the police that she was being used as a prostitute or that she felt abused.
"Here in the safety in front of police officers, you know that Reza's been taken away in custody, you could have at that point in time, if things were so bad, said, 'Look, I need help,'" said Markovitz.
"You make it sound so easy," the witness said. "It wasn't. We were manipulated to think that the police. . . didn't have any good intentions."
But Markovitz also suggested the witness voluntarily became a prostitute, and that Moazami did not chain her to a bed and force her to sleep with people.
The young woman testified that she continued to work as an escort for a brief period after she left Moazami. She also said she had started offering sexual favours before she met Moazami, though she told the court those favours never included intercourse.
Earlier in the hearing, Crown lawyer Damienne Darby said during her opening statement that after the young woman left Moazami, he allegedly asked her to meet up with him one night.
The young woman agreed, arriving at the location in a taxi with another woman who Darby said had also previously worked for Moazami.
When they got there, Moazami allegedly seized a bag carrying a small dog that he had given the young woman, Darby said.
Moazami allegedly put his foot on the dog's neck, threatening to kill it if the young woman didn't go back to work for him, the court heard. Frightened, she refused and left.
About two months later, the young woman quit prostitution for good, and sought help at a shelter.
Ten other alleged victims, some of whom were as young as 14 years old when they worked for Moazami, are expected to testify later at his trial.