Tyler community joins to battle sex trafficking - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Tyler community joins to battle sex trafficking

Posted: Updated:

TYLER (KYTX) - We typically think of sex trafficking as something that happens in foreign countries, but the truth is, it's happening all over the United States, including right here in East Texas.

We've reported on a lot of meetings about sex trafficking in Tyler, but it's startling to the community how the problem is growing here.

A big reason is because Dallas is now one of the top 14 sex trafficking hubs in the country. I-20 easily connects Dallas to East Texas, and it's an interstate lots of traffickers use.

That's why a national organization Wellspring Living, came here to establish one of the country's first communities equipped to treat rescued sex trafficking victims, and prevent even more East Texas children from becoming victims.

"It's not just overseas it's here locally," says Tyler mother and medical professional Sharon Hurst.

It haunts Hurst to think that girls just like her 17-year-old daughter have been dragged into a dark world of sex trafficking.

"It hurts my heart, breaks my heart but it moves me to want to do something," she said.

She joined law enforcement officers, child protective services workers, concerned parents, and other medical professionals to learn how to help victims, and educate the community.

"It's a huge need across the nation so it's great that Tyler is one of the first that is really implementing the system," said Mary Frances Bowley, the executive director of Wellspring Living.

It's an Atlanta-based organization that teaches communities around the nation how to combat sex trafficking, and set up recovery systems for rescued victims.

"The numbers are quite staggering that we have 100,000 children that are lured into trafficking every year in the U.S. Those are domestic children." Bowley said. "The entry age is between 12 and 14 are being lured away by perpetrators that sell them for sex. And that can happen 8 to 10 times a night."

Local experts check a web site called Backpage.com in the escort section to keep tabs on sex trafficking activity. That site shows that lots of girls are selling sex in Tyler - a lot of those girls, experts say, are forced to do so.

"We know that girls are taken from here and taken to Arkansas or to Louisiana or other parts of Texas so it is a very complicated thing to catch the perpetrators and rescue the girls. That's why it's important that when we have a girl that's rescued, that we get her right into services and that's what's going to be happening right here in Tyler," Bowley said.

As we've reported, a local organization called Refuge of Light is in the middle of building a home here in east Texas for rescued sex trafficking victims. They have already started construction and hope to be done with the home by the end of the year.

If you're a parent, there are ways you can help keep your kids from becoming victims. A lot of predators are online, so keep your child's Internet protected and monitored.  Also look for red flags - do they have multiple cell phones, or very expensive things you didn't buy them? The best thing you can do is talk to them.

These predators look for young children who are detached, insecure, or easily wooed by material objects. It's important to know who your children are surrounding themselves with.

 For more information on the homes being build, head to http://refugeoflight.org/about/

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • ETX Deacon arrested for 1981 Pennsylvania homicide

    ETX Deacon arrested for 1981 Pennsylvania homicide

    Thursday, April 24 2014 8:08 PM EDT2014-04-25 00:08:58 GMT
    HARRISBURG, PA. (KYTX) - U.S. Marshal Martin J. Pane announced today the U.S. Marshals Service arrested a Pennsylvania fugitive in Texas who was wanted for more than 30 years on a 1981 murder charge.More >>
    HARRISBURG, PA. (KYTX) - U.S. Marshal Martin J. Pane announced today the U.S. Marshals Service arrested a Pennsylvania fugitive in Texas who was wanted for more than 30 years on a 1981 murder charge.More >>
  • Tyler Police searching for early morning robber

    Tyler Police searching for early morning robber

    Tyler Police searching for early morning robber

    Monday, April 21 2014 5:53 PM EDT2014-04-21 21:53:35 GMT
    Tyler Police need your help finding an early morning robbery suspect. A woman says a robber tackled her to the ground and stole her purse. More >>
    Tyler Police need your help finding an early morning robbery suspect. A woman says a robber tackled her to the ground and stole her purse. More >>
  • Cherokee County woman found dead in driveway, husband charged with murder

    Cherokee County woman found dead in driveway, husband charged with murder

    Monday, April 21 2014 5:31 PM EDT2014-04-21 21:31:33 GMT
    Cedric Dewayne ThompsonCedric Dewayne Thompson
    CHEROKEE CO. (KYTX) - On Sunday April 20, 2014 at approximately 9:35am Kayla Nicole Thompson (27 years of age) was found deceased in the driveway of her residence, located in the 1500 block of County Road 3201 just West of Lake Jacksonville.More >>
    CHEROKEE CO. (KYTX) - On Sunday April 20, 2014 at approximately 9:35am Kayla Nicole Thompson (27 years of age) was found deceased in the driveway of her residence, located in the 1500 block of County Road 3201 just West of Lake Jacksonville.More >>
Powered by WorldNow

CBS19, MYTX & KCEB
2211 ESE Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75701
Phone (903) 581-2211
Fax (903) 581-5769

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2004 - 2014, WorldNow and KYTX, Owned and Operated by London Broadcasting Company.
All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.