By John Hall

February 19, 2010


FORT WORTH—In many places across the state, a darkness that most people overlook clouds the eyes of hurting children, their stares serving as silent cries for help. They’re the glazed-over gazes of trafficked children in Texas who live enslaved, beaten down and hopeless. In someone else’s possession and under their control, victims of human trafficking silently struggle to survive in this darkness.

Despite living in and going to many of the same places other children do, they are forced into lives that most people never see — shuttled from home to home, sold on the streets as prostitutes, beaten and abused by pimps and gang members. Afraid to tell anyone of their predicament and with a public that knows little about domestic trafficking, these children silently suffer over and over again.

You may be at the mall and one of these kids walk right past you,” said Deena Graves, director of Traffick911 , the anti-human trafficking ministry of Southside City Church in Fort Worth .

“You may be sitting in McDonald's and one of these kids is sitting next to you. People don’t know this exists. And if they know it exists, they don’t know what to look for to identify victims.”

Warning signs that point to trafficking

Graves notes these indications a child is a victim of trafficking:

• Appears to be under someone else's control; submissive or fearful behavior
• Restricted or scripted communication; inconsistencies in story
• Exhibits feelings of helplessness, shame, humiliation, shock, denial or disbelief
• Bruises, cuts, scars on wrists, ankles and legs, or other signs of battering
• Branded with a tattoo of a man’s name or “Daddy;” often on neck
• General poor health; malnutrition; extreme weight loss
• Inability or fear to make eye contact
• Chronic runaway; homeless youth
• Disappears for blocks of time
• Lying about age; false identification
• Dating much older, abusive or controlling man
• Not attending school or has numerous school absences
• Multiple people living in one house.
• Lacks knowledge about community or whereabouts
• Frequently moved from place to place



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