Human trafficking is real and alive in San Antonio and throughout Texas -- that is the message from a group of legislators who hope to put a stop to the despicable crime.
It’s a crime Debbie knows all too well.
“It started at the age of 6 with my biological mother,” said Debbie.
She endured more than 30 years of human trafficking. She said her own mother hooked her on heroin when she was 6 years old, and then sold her to men for drugs.
Debbie was pregnant by age 11 and married at 12. Her husband continued to sell her, she said.
She finally escaped the trafficking trade when her husband went to prison for trying to kill her.
For years, she said, she blamed herself for what was happening to her. But now, after counseling, rehab and 7 months sober, she says she knows it is not her fault.
Debbie shared her story Tuesday at a hearing of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking. The committee is comprised of state senators and representatives whose focus Tuesday was to determine how agencies can better help those who survive.
“The first thing is to find a secure place, a shelter,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-District 26. “We need these victims’ help in prosecuting these criminals.”
Corpus Christi Rep. Todd Hunter, R-District 32, drafted the legislation that created the Joint Interim Committee. The larger goal, he says, is to make Texas the leader in creating and enforcing laws to crack down on this kind of crime.
“Human trafficking is real and alive in the state of Texas,” said Hunter. “And I want folks to know that we’re talking about slavery and prostitution of little boys and little girls.”
Interstate 10 is considered a main corridor for human trafficking, fueling an estimated 25 percent of the trade.
On Monday, the FBI announced that it arrested 104 suspected pimps in a nationwide child prostitution bust. One of the people arrested was from San Antonio, 24-year-old Justin May.
Meanwhile, Debbie hopes her story helps other victims speak up and that it creates change.
“We can make it,” she said. “After 31 years of drug use and keeping that a secret, I’m making it.”