Alone in the sex trade, one Texas minor worked the streets for sex, without the ‘protection’ of a pimp
SOLD FOR SEX: In Texas, an estimated 79,000 youth at any one time are being exploited for sex. Many are never rescued because so few cry out to police or other authorities for help. The San Antonio Express-News investigation “Sold for Sex” chronicles the lives of sex-trafficking victims, including a 16-year-old girl who was sold for sex up to 15 times a day, and examines what Texas law enforcement and service providers can do to help them.
Not all of the young people who get trapped in prostitution were lured or coerced by a pimp.
Abigail, 17, began selling her own body at age 15, using social media to find johns, first to pay for food, then for methamphetamine.
She had first gotten in trouble with the law at 11, after she kicked a police officer trying to handcuff her for being drunk in a movie theater. She cycled in and out of the juvenile justice system, arrested for running away, using drugs, acting out in school. Her misbehavior stemmed from “anger issues” related to a father who was often incarcerated and a mother who struggled with her own addiction, she said.
“Things happen that lead us to this lifestyle. We don’t know how to help ourselves,” Abigail said.
At 15, with her mother in jail, Abigail left home and began staying with friends. Too young to get a real job, she began selling her body. Men were willing to spend $100 or more to be with her. She carried a knife for protection. She switched from taking drugs that put her to sleep to drugs that kept her awake.
For six months, Abigail turned tricks and snorted meth, her already-thin frame dwindling to 80 pounds. She was eventually apprehended and put in detention, where counselors helped her see she was a victim.
“A light bulb went off in my head,” Abigail said. “I felt disgusted with myself. It was like I was trapped in a nightmare, but it was all real.”
Abigail, now 16, turned herself in to police last year.
SOLD FOR SEX: After Issac Williams convinced a 16-year-old he loved her, he sold her body for sex up to 15 times a day
As part of her probation, she received therapy and became part of Ransomed Life, a nonprofit that provides mentors for trafficking survivors.
She also took part in Restore Court, an intensive, voluntary program that provides services to survivors and holds them accountable.
“I realized I don’t need to be disgusted with myself any more,” Abigail said. “I can be proud that I survived and that I still have my entire life ahead of me.”
Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of her stories here. | email@example.com | Twitter: @mstoeltje