20-Year-Old Special Needs High Schooler Charged With Federal Sex Crime

Did you know that in North Carolina, if a girl under 18 is caught having sex for money, not only is she charged with a sex crime, she’s charged as an adult? Despite being a child (or, in this case, having the “mental capacity of a 9-year-old“) and clearly being the victim, even in a sex trafficking incident, that minor can be tried as an adult due to the lack of age restriction in the state’s prostitution laws?

Last July, 20-year-old Alexandra Berte went missing from her home in Wilmington, NC. Despite being a special needs student with the mental capacity of a child, it was extremely difficult for her mother, Laura Berte, to convince police officers to put her on the missing persons list. Finally, one actually helped her by placing Alexandra on the list, which was extremely fortunate because, as Laura states, “had she not been put on that, she might still be on the road.” Not too longer after being put on the missing persons list, Alexandra and several other girls were pulled over in a car filled with several gift cards, phones, and a bit of pot.

Sadly, Alexandra had been listed on backpage.com, a common website to advertise “adult services” ever since Craigslist opted to stop their adult section two years ago. Not only had she been advertised for sex, she had clearly been frequently moved around: in just five weeks, she was listed in at least five states. Since “pimping” isn’t considered a crime necessarily, sex workers get hit with charges instead and lo and behold, she was charged with a federal sex crime. Why? Because North Carolina is fucking ridiculous.

Source: Cocke County Sheriff's Department

Given that her daughter is a special needs student and therefore most certainly a victim of human trafficking, especially when you consider that according to some statistics, nearly 40% of disabled women report being sexually assaulted, Laura Berte is upset at these events:

My daughter’s not a criminal. She doesn’t have the mental capacity to come up with this idea on her own.  This is bigger than her and bigger than most people in this community know, and it’s happening right underneath our noses… It is scary and there’s a perception out there—in this community, in society—that girls of this age are making the choice. You know, that needs to be changed.  My daughter would have never chosen this as a career.  And I just feel there are many, many girls out there that are in similar circumstances that are high risk environments that can be prey.

Two things are obviously here: North Carolina needs to change its absurd laws on sex trafficking and North Carolina needs to change its absurd attitude toward those with special needs, particularly when this really is a quite clear case of “inability to legally consent.” Treating the developmentally disabled as criminals and locking them up while virtually high fiving the exploiters by letting them 100% responsibility-free will do nothing but encourage trafficking in your state, thereby wrecking more lives.

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    • L

      I’d like to know what her special need is…i mean she was capable of driving a car…. just curious. but yes if she was pimped out and didnt join up voluntarily, her being arrested is effing ridiculous.

      • Gab

        I think she was in the car with other girls, I don’t think she was the driver, but I could be wrong. I would hope her mom wouldn’t let her get a license with her disability.

      • Lex

        There is nothing wrong with her besides reading and writing. She learns well, it just takes her a little more time to pick up on learning than others. Thats ALL.

      • Erynn

        9 year olds are perfectly capable of learning to drive. we don’t let them because we don’t want bad things happening to them and they are too physically small. I fail to see what driving has to do with her mental capacity. Motor skills are, by large, unrelated.

    • Lex

      Ive known her for a while and this is not the case of the mentally-disabled. She is not dumb. While her reading skills and her skills of learning might be a problem. That has nothing to do with getting drugs, and “pimping others” as well as herself. She abandoned her 18 month old daughter and went on to basically be a nasty fuck up. She can drive fine, her motor skills are fine as well as everything else. She uses people and has always done that

      • Erynn

        Knowing her doesn’t mean you know the nature of her disability. I’ve seen it far too often where people ‘know someone’ who is disabled and proclaim they are fine… when they most defiantly are NOT. But because their disability is kept on the quiet side and they seem to function ok, people presume nothing is wrong. If she’s clinically diagnosed as having the capacity of a 9 year old, then I’m more inclined to believe that than I am to believe someone who knew her. Ignoring ‘invisible disabilities’ is far too common a problem.

    • Amanda

      Her maturity has everything to do with it. My nine year old can drive, doesn’t mean she should get charged as an adult. Because she isn’t mature enough to know better. I believe this girl was forced. Pimps can be very convincing and horrible. Especially to a 14yr old, who still is very immature even if she wasn’t disabled. Lex your a dummy if you honestly believe she should be charged as an adult. Complete and utter bull shit on your part. I have a friend who is 30yrs old and autistic and still can’t make mature decisions and has been manipulated by fucked up so called friends many times. Thankfully she has real friends (like me ) and family that back her up when it comes back to bite her in the ass.