Amalia, who doesn’t want her last name revealed, is a survivor.
She was trafficked occasionally from the age of 14 until her mid-twenties.
“You’re looking, but you just don’t know what you’re looking for,” Amalia said. “You don’t choose this life for yourself, but it happens.”
While Amalia has regained her life and is now thriving, she attributes much of her survival to New Friends New Life, a Dallas-based non-profit organization. They are dedicated to restoring and empowering people who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.
The organization’s CEO, Bianca Davis, said this is a war against an evil that lurks in plain sight. One who takes proactive steps to quit.
“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 can we have this conversation on a daily basis and help these young people to understand? That’s what we have to work on.”
Davis cited a recent case of human trafficking that began in Dallas. Police say a 15-year-old girl was seen leaving the American Airlines Center during a Dallas Mavericks game in early April, along with two men. She disappeared for 10 days, later found in Oklahoma City thanks to an observant neighbor.
“It’s happening everywhere,” Davis said. “It’s not like what we used to think. It’s getting more sophisticated now. These men are even using older women to bait these young girls. Make them feel safe when they’re already vulnerable, then force- them to enter into this life.”
Sadly, Amalia’s daughter is now a victim of the same lifestyle she endured for so many years. His message to parents is very clear.
“You think you know what’s going on and you don’t,” Amalia said. “You have to dig deeper. You have to know what’s going on.”
It’s a cycle that Davis said for so many people. A cycle that takes a team to break. Part of the New Friends New Life team is a man who officially worked with the CIA, Matt Osborne. He works with the organization as the men’s advocacy group liaison.
Part of his job is to lead free two-hour community bus tours to areas of Dallas where there is human trafficking. It’s a way of showing ordinary people that this isn’t a crime that only happens underground.
“We don’t go to the highest crime areas of Dallas,” Osborne said. “We go to very nice areas. Nice hotels and residences. We go to office parks and the like where there has been traffic in the past to show that this is happening everywhere.”
He added that it starts at home. Have candid conversations with children about what they are doing. Who are they talking to? What are their online habits like? Where do they go on weekends? Do you know their friends?
“Parents may think it’s invasive, but you could save your child’s life,” Osbourne said. “Nobody chooses this way of life. But once these people, these bad actors, get their hands on these young people, it’s very hard to stop what happens next.”
Davis shared 21 apps her organization is warning parents about.
“I’m not saying these are bad apps, but I’m saying bad people are using them to prey on children and set them up to possibly be trafficked,” Davis said. “They meet in person can start as a simple hello on an app.”
Texas currently ranks second in human trafficking, which is why the work of New Friends New Life is endless. Some 400 girls are trafficked onto 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’s happening around them, so they can have the information they need to stay safe.