DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – There is a massive undercover effort underway across North Texas to stop sex trafficking. In this last week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, organizations estimate that thousands of underage girls will be brought here as sex slaves. And among those people trying to find these young girls is a woman named Amanda… who knows the life all too well.
Abused as a child, Amanda ran away from home at age 13. “I didn’t have any clothes. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have a job.”
She met a man who appeared to be a friend and helped take care of her. What she didn’t know was that he was a pimp. Before she knew it, he dropped her off at brothel. “I was scared and I didn’t know what was happening.”
An older female prostitute showed her the way and explained why they were both there. The pimp picked her back up that night. “He took me back to the hotel that night. He took all that money and he basically sexually assaulted me all night.”
By age 15, Amanda was pregnant with the pimp’s baby and the abuse began. “I didn’t have any where to go. At that point, he knew he was in full control.”
Amanda says he took her to a tattoo parlor on Harry Hines. He told her she had to get his name tattooed on her neck. A red flower now covers the name. Amanda finally got away from the pimp just before her baby was born. She says escaping became a necessity for her because of her unborn child.
While North Texas is celebrating, Amanda says she is watching…behind the scenes…for the thousands of young women who are now arriving here from all over the country. She says their lives, and the lives’ of their ones, have all been threatened if they try to escape. She says this is big business for prostitution. Amanda says she made up to $3,000 a night.
Now, in North Texas, money and men have gathered in one place.
Amanda is part of New Friends, New Life. It’s an advocacy group dedicated to finding these young girls and letting them know that there is another choice. Katie Pedigo is the Executive Director. “Every two minutes a child is sold into sex slavery,” says Pedigo. “It’s a 32-billion dollar industry. They are all over town and we need to look for them.”
Amanda says the Super Bowl has given her a mission. She is watching for these young girls…who’ve been brought here just about every state. She says, for her, it’s easy to recognize them.
–The girls are wearing inappropriate clothes for their ages.
–They typically have tattoos on their necks. Like Amanda, it’s usually their pimp’s name.
–Bleached blonde hair is common.
–They usually are in groups with three or four other girls and one man.
–Amanda says they looking down. They do not make eye contact.
“A lot of times, you can see it in their faces. They are not there,” Amanda explains.
Irie Session knows that look well. Following our conversation with Amanda, she said, “When you were interviewing her, one of the things she said was you can look in their eyes and they’re not there…that is what she looked like.” Session was talking about Amanda. Sessions remembers that look on Amanda’s face seven years ago. That’s when Amanda came to New Friends, New Life to get help. Sessions is an advocate for New Friends, New Life. She’s been a counselor to Amanda every since then.
Sessions, Pedigo, and Amanda all have hope that Amanda’s story will now be heard. Amanda says she prays that “some of these women that do come here, see this and realize there is hope out there. They don’t have to be scared anymore.”
New Friends, New Life will primarily focus on finding the young girls who are left behind once the Super Bowl has come and gone. Pedigo says past Super Bowls have proven that many of them will be left here with no place to turn. In the meantime, Amanda is making it her personally mission to search now.
Love 146 and Traffick 9-1-1 are two other organizations also focusing on the undercover efforts to find these women now. Based on statistics and experience from past Super Bowls in Tampa and Miami, they have learned where to be to help stop the crime before it starts. Both organizations say the Arlington Police Department has also been actively involved in the investigations.
Love 146 warns North Texans that the men are in their older teens, 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. The men are recruiting young women at malls, bus stops, schools, parties…even places like bake sales and middle school basketball games.
If you know someone who may be a victim or a perpetrator, you should contact the local police department and call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888) 373-7888. According to federal law, anyone under the age of 18 involved in Child Slavery is considered to victim of human trafficking.
Love 146 says traffickers often exploit young girls in hotel or motel rooms, apartments and even houses. If you notice a lot of cars and men coming and going late into the night, Love 146 organizers say it’s quite possible it’s a brothel. Rather than calling the police and complaining that there are prostitutes, the group say it’s important you let them know you suspect commercial sexual exploitation.
All of the advocacy groups warn you not to approach the girls if you suspect this activity. It is dangerous for them…and for you. Again call police, the hotline above, and contact one of these organizations to help.