April 25--A harrowing story of modern-day slavery was told to Lubbock police investigators by an 18-year California woman in March. It led to a Lubbock County grand jury's returning a felony human trafficking charge against a Lubbock man she said bought her from a previous pimp in February.
The story of the woman's experiences, as reported in A-J Media, gives a chilling view of a shadowy sex slavery many people may have been shocked to learn exists not only in large urban areas but in friendly West Texas cities.
The 18-year-old girl interviewed by Lubbock police said she came from California to the Odessa area last year. She met a man she identified as "Ace," on Facebook in August.
Ace forced her to work as a prostitute and beat her when she didn't earn at least $1,000 per day, she told police. He sold her in February to a man she knew as "Bones," who was later indicted by the grand jury.
Bones continued to use her as a prostitute, advertising her on an Internet sex website and controlling her by keeping her identification cards, money and phone. He took her to different cities, where she had sex with about 30 men. About 14 of them were in Lubbock, she told local police.
She fled after he beat and choked her. She left their motel room after he passed out, went to a local business and called Children of the Night, an organization that rescues children from prostitution.
Children of the Night called local police, who later arrested the suspect.
Her case is not an isolated one. Arrests have been made in other West Texas cases believed to be related to human trafficking:
-- The Texas Department of Public Safety found six children living in a motel in Amarillo on March 11. Four suspects were taken into custody.
-- Two 24-year-old men were indicted on four counts of human trafficking by a Lubbock County grand jury in November. Police believed they compelled a 17-year-old runaway girl into prostitution.
-- The same two men were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of additional human trafficking charges of forcing another victim, an 18-year-old runaway, into prostitution.
-- A 25-year-old man and 19-year-old woman were indicted in 2011 by a federal grand jury for three counts of perpetuating a child sex-trafficking conspiracy involving a juvenile runaway.
-- Two Lubbock residents were arrested in Midland in 2010 for human trafficking and forcing a 17-year-old Lubbock girl into prostitution.
We need to find a way as a society to let vulnerable young women understand the dangers that can happen to them.
Men who are paying for prostitution should consider they may be aiding and abetting the tragedy of sexual trafficking.
However out of sight it might be to most people, it's safe to say human trafficking is continually happening in Texas, with traffickers taking victims to motels in different cities to meet strangers.
We appreciate the law enforcement officers who work to bring charges against sex traffickers and to free trapped victims from imprisonment and forced prostitution.
And thanks also to federal and state lawmakers who are working to sharpen human trafficking laws, such as the 99-0 vote in the Senate passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
-- Our position: Americans would like to believe our nation long ago ended slavery, but that isn't true. Sex traffickers are forcing victims into a modern-day form of slavery. Many of the victims are juveniles who have run away from home and end up under the control of traffickers, often moved from city to city and advertised for prostitution on the Internet.
-- Why you should care: The sex trafficking isn't limited to other nations or to large cities in America. The crime is happening in cities the size of Lubbock and smaller. Victims are suffering dangerous and miserable lives from which it is difficult for them to escape. They need the help from law enforcement officers who are working to save them and from legislators working to pass stricter trafficking laws.
-- For more information: Log on to our website, www.lubbockonline.com, and enter the words "human trafficking" in the search box.
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