Amalia, who doesn’t want her last name revealed, is a survivor.
She was trafficked on and off starting at the age of 14 until her mid-twenties.
“You’re searching, but you just don’t know what you are searching for,” Amalia said. “You don’t choose this life for yourself, but it happens.”
While Amalia has gotten her life back and is now thriving, she credits much of her survival to Dallas-based nonprofit, New Friends New Life. They are dedicated to restoring and empowering people who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.
The organization’s CEO, Bianca Davis, said it’s a war against an evil that is hiding in plain sight. One that takes proactive measures to stop.
“By the time she meets him, it’s just too late,” Davis said. “It could be at the American Airlines Center. It could be the mall. It could be a restaurant or even a school. By the time she meets him, it’s almost too late. How do we every day have this conversation and help these young people understand? That’s what we have to work on.”
Davis cited a recent case of human trafficking that started in Dallas. Police said a 15-year-old girl was seen leaving the American Airlines Center during a Dallas Mavericks game in early April, with two men. She went missing for 10 days, later found in Oklahoma City thanks to an observant neighbor.
“It’s happening everywhere,” Davis said. “This doesn’t look like we once thought. It’s getting more sophisticated now. These men are even using older women to bait these young girls. Make them feel safe when they are already vulnerable and then force them into this life.”
Unfortunately, Amalia’s daughter has now fallen victim to the same lifestyle she suffered in for so many years. Her message to parents is very clear.
“You think you know what’s going on and then you don’t,” Amalia said. “have to dig deeper. You have to know what’s going on.”
It’s a cycle Davis said for so many. A cycle that takes a team to break. Part of the New Friends New Life team is a man who formally worked with the CIA, Matt Osborne. He works with the organization as the men’s advocacy community liaison.
Part of his work includes leading free, two-hour bus tours for the community of areas in Dallas where human trafficking is happening. It’s a way to show everyday people, this is not a crime that only happens underground.
“We aren’t going to the higher crime areas of Dallas,” Osbourne said. “We are going to very nice areas. Nice hotels and residences. We are going to office parks and such where trafficking has happened in the past as a way to show that this is happening everywhere.”
He added it starts at home. Having candid conversations with kids about what they are doing. Who they are talking to? What do their online habits look like? Where are they going on the weekends? Do you know their friends?
“Parents may think it’s invasive, but you could save your child’s life,” Osbourne said. “No one is choosing this lifestyle. But once these people, these bad actors, get hold of these young people, it’s very hard to stop what happens next.”
Davis shared 21 apps her organization warns parents about.
“I’m not saying these are bad apps, but I am saying that bad people are using them to prey on children and to groom them to eventually be trafficked,” Davis said. “They meet up in person can start as a simple hello on an app.”
Texas currently ranks number two in human trafficking which is why the work of New Friends New Life is never-ending. Some 400 girls are trafficked on the streets of Dallas every night, according to the organization’s latest statistics.
New Friends New Life provides several resources for parents and the community to educate themselves and their children about what is happening around them, so they can be armed with the information they need to stay safe.