DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – She was just 14 years old the first time she was sold for sex. “A lot of it comes from survival, what you might call survival sex,” said a former sex trafficking victim, who did not want to reveal her identity.
To survive on the streets as a runaway, she said she turned to older men – pimps – who made money, selling her all over North Texas.
“They’re masters of manipulation,” she said. “A 14-year-old, a 15-year-old girl, they don’t wake up one morning and say ‘I want to be a prostitute today.’”
But, for years, she said, she felt it was the best life, the only life, available to her.
“Rather than a prostitute, rather than a whore, rather than a street girl, rather than a criminal, rather than all these things I kept trying to tell myself, I was simply a victim.”
Sex trafficking is a hidden epidemic North Texas she says, and she worries it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
“The Super Bowl is one of the biggest human trafficking events in the United States,” said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. In a press conference this week, he predicted girls will be brought from all over the country, even the world, to be used for sex.
“It’s modern day slavery really,” he said.
The Florida Coalition on Human Trafficking estimated during last year’s Super Bowl, tens of thousands of women and children were trafficked in the Miami area.
Now, local advocates for sex trafficking victims are expecting to see the same surge here. “We know its going to happen. What we have to do is come to the table and prepare,” said Deena Graves, executive director for Traffick911.
The organization is dedicated to raising awareness of sex trafficking and educating the public on how to prevent it. Already, it’s gearing up for a major Super Bowl campaign, circulating public service ads on the Internet and doing outreach to at risk groups.
“We need to focus on the fact that our kids are being brutalized right under our noses,” said Graves.
So what are the warning signs? According to Traffick911 some of them include:
- Scripted answers.
- Inconsistencies in story.
- Branding or tattoos, especially that reflect ownership or money.
- Bruising, including handprints or thin marks like an extension cord or wire. Varied stages of healing with black, purple, blue, yellow shades.
- Coming on to several men.
- Appears helpless, shamed, nervous.
- Inability or fear to make eye contact.
- Chronic runaway; homeless youth.
- Dating much older, abusive or controlling man.
- Not attending school or has numerous school absences.
- Clothes that say, “Daddy’s girl” or inappropriate for weather.