Heroin addiction kept Texas sex-trafficking victim trapped
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.
Maria Bautista, 44, was sexually molested as a child — by male relatives, by her mother’s boyfriends.
She had a baby at 14, a second one right after high school. She moved into a housing project, drinking heavily. A neighbor introduced her to cocaine. A year later, a sibling introduced her to heroin. Anything to dull the pain.
A brief respite came when she married a decent man, but the two fought and after two years of marriage, they separated. Back to drugs Bautista went. One night, staying with two male friends who were brothers, Bautista was “dope sick” and out of money. .The guys had an idea how she could make some quick cash and get her fix. It involved selling her body.
“They tricked me,” she said. “They told me, ’Give us the money you make, and we’ll protect you.” To keep her in line, they regularly injected her with heroin. Bautista was 18.
THE WAY FORWARD: As law enforcement targets pimps, service providers seek to help young victims
One customer raped and beat her, throwing her out of his car onto the road in Boerne. The pimps were violent as well.
After a year, Bautista escaped, but she would go on to sell her body on her own, for 20 years, on a stretch of Guadalupe Street. Numerous stints in prison and rehab did nothing to ease her addiction.
All that changed in 2016, when a woman she knew told her about Esperanza Court, a felony diversion program for those with three or more convictions for prostitution.
The two-year program offers substance abuse treatment, individual and group therapy, housing, education and training.
She ended up enrolling at San Antonio College, in a two-year program to get a certificate as a licensed chemical dependency counselor. She’s almost done.
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Bautista has been clean for two years now. Her three children are back in her life. Her dream is to work at Esperanza Court, the place where she finally confronted the pain of her childhood.
“My goal is just to keep going,” she said. “I’ve learned there’s a whole other life out there.”
Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of her stories here. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @mstoeltje