BEAUMONT - A 61 year-old human trafficking survivor is sharing her story for the first time to help other victims.
Her name is Jean, 12news will not release her last name for safety reasons. Jean said she wants victims to know its possible for them to find help and happiness.
When Jean was 13 years-old, she made a mistake that changed her life. She ran away from her home in Florida.
“I ran and I ran into the streets, right into the arms of my abusers,” said Jean.
On the streets, she befriended a man who gave her food and shelter. He quickly earned her trust and told her he would like to raise her at his ranch in California.
“He said would you like to come live on my ranch and I’ll raise you as my daughter and for course I thought my dreams have been answered,” said Jean.
She was given a plane ticket to her new home in California but when she was picked up from the airport her dream turned into a nightmare.
“He backhanded me and knocked me in the door and told me to speak only when spoken to and put a cap over my head,” said Jean.
When Jean arrived to the ranch she was given drugs, thumb printed and then introduced to her first client.
“I looked at him and told him I won’t do this and he took a hose and beat me with a hose until I cried and said ok I’ll do whatever you want me to do,” said Jean.
Jean was stuck right in the middle of human trafficking. Her pimps used drugs and beatings as a way to control her. Each day she would see several clients until she passed out from exhaustion. Sometimes she would see up to 20 clients in one day.
“These people were very sick,” said Jean. “The things that they wanted to, they’d pay thousands of dollars for.”
Unfortunately Jean is not the only one with this horrifying story. According to the National Runaway Hotline one out of three children who run away from home is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours.
Officer Chris Price with the Beaumont Police Special Assignments unit said it happens right here in Beaumont.
“They like to use hotels easily accessible to the highway: your red roof inn, suburban inn, Motel 6 and Regency Inn,” said Officer Price. “One of the hotels we’ve worked on is the Regency Inn off College Street.”
On Wednesday, a Jefferson county grand jury indicted a man named Johnny Matlock for trafficking multiple women. According to the indictment, he reached out to the young girls through social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat.
“They are looking for girls with problems, not a great home life, not socially accepted and work on it and try to be their friend,” said Price.
Price said pimps also use Backpage.com to prostitute women. It’s an advertising website that includes an adult, massage and dating section.
While the adult section is censored and shut down, Price still believes it is getting used to prostitute women.
“When there is a will there is a way, they are always going to try to work,” said Price. “The Beaumont Police Department and the narcotics unit, they actively work on things like that nature.”
Lisa Boler owns the Harvest house which is an outreach center for sex trafficking victims. She said human trafficking happens in Beaumont more often than you think.
Last year she has worked with 23 sex trafficking victims.
“We’re dealing with our own girls, our domestic girls in our cities and our homes,” said Boler.
This year she has helped four victims in the Golden Triangle. In the past she said she has worked with some victims who were as young as 12 years-old. Boler explains pimps manipulate the young girls by acting like their boyfriends.
“Sometimes a girl won’t recognize the signs because she is in love and what does every girl want to be in love,” said Boler.
Unfortunately, some young children never make it out alive to share their story. According to the Child Rescue Network the life expectancy of a sex trafficking victim is only 7 years.
Luckily, Jean was able to escape after she spent 2 years in what she calls pure torture.
“You think you will never get out, you’ll never get away that it’s always going to be with you," said Jean. "It doesn’t have to be."
Seven years ago, Jean came to Beaumont after she was encouraged by her son to find God and start a new life.
Jean said reading her bible and praying at the Cathedral in the Pines church has helped her heal.
“I used to say finding him at the end is what saved me but he’s what gave me my new beginning,” said Jean.
Her new beginning includes reaching out to other victims to let them know they can start over and live a normal life.
“There is a life after what they have been through and if they want to press charges I would say go for it,” said Jean.
While Jean admits recovering from the pain is difficult she suggests they find a church. After a while, Jean said she was able to forgive the pimps that hurt her.
“Those memories, the pain kept me in a prison much worse than the walls that they put me in,” said Jean.
As Jean looks back on her life, she realizes that she no longer lets her past as a sex trafficking victim define who she is as a person.
“I don’t carry the anger anymore, I don’t carry the pain anymore and they can’t hurt me anymore,” said Jean.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline Texas is the second highest in the nation for Human Trafficking cases.
In 2016 the state has seen 670 cases and received 2,135 calls.
If you or someone you know is tuck in human trafficking please call the hotline at 888-373-7888. You can also call the Harvest House in Beaumont at 409-790-0798.
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