Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Letter from a Texas Juvenile Detention Center

The Refuge's Toni McKinley and Katie Watson take the passion of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and update Dr. King’s call to action from the perspective of a child who has been sex trafficked.

TJD Letter graphic.jpg

Letter from a Texas Juvenile Detention Center

By Toni McKinley & Katie Watson

My Dear Fellow Americans:

While working here as a mentor in this juvenile detention center, I came across the realization that this month is “Human Trafficking Awareness Month.” Seldom, if ever, do I believe that you will hear my voice, but maybe, on this day, you will hear me.

I think I should first give the reason for my being here, since some of you may not know my history. When I was 15 years old, I ran away into the arms of a man who said he’d love and protect me. Then, the pendulum of his protection swayed. He forced and coerced me into sleeping with scores of men to earn money for him. So I am here today because girls who committed crimes under the duress of their pimp, like me, are here. I am here because, through the Survivor Sisters Leadership Program, I can be the person that was never there for me.

Beyond this, I believe I was meant to bring this program to this detention facility to bond in mutual experience with my survivor sisters and to tell the story we share with millions across the country. There can be no refuting of the fact that sex trafficking engulfs this nation. In fact, Texas is one of the most thoroughly engulfed. Its ugly record of criminalizing children for the evils of their pimps is a notorious reality. And more victims reside in this state than any other besides the Golden State. On the basis of these conditions, victims of this horrific industry seek your attention now more than ever.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by others. However, I have yet to see such a movement for child sex trafficking victims. Instead, silence rings in the ear of every victim with piercing familiarity. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of sex trafficking to stay silent. But when you have experienced barbaric rapes that strip your dignity, abolish your dreams and purpose at whim; when you have faced hate-filled men who curse, kick, brutalize, and kill with impunity, and your little sister is threatened to endure the same with any retaliation or refusal; when you hear your bones breaking under the weight of society’s misconceptions, and your name, like watercolor, becomes blurred with shades of “Sugar” and “Ho” and “Bitch;” when you’re forced to find sleep in run-down motel rooms between sweat-drenched pillows and terror-filled dreams; when an investigator reaffirms your entrapment as he concocts an answer for your asking in agonizing pathos, “Why is there no place for children like me?,” and you feel yourself drowning in tears that no one else can see, and you hear yourself screaming words that no one else can hear; when you see yourself begin to distort your personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward all people; when you are harried by day and haunted by night, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” – then you will understand why we can no longer remain silent. 

One may well ask, “How can you expect me to lend my voice for those who break the law?” The answer is found in the fact that all human beings are interrelated. We cannot sit idly by whilst 79,000 children are sold for sex within this state’s boundaries, criminal record or not. We cannot follow the “do-nothingism” of the complacent. The Survivor Sisters Leadership Program is the beginning of the end where our voices will be heard and no longer silenced by the injustice of negligence. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and we no longer allow children to endure brutalization at the hands of the greedy, the evil, and the silent. That time must be now.

Yours truly,

Toni McKinley


Toni McKinley is the Clinical Director of The Refuge for DMST and a survivor leader for the Survivor Sisters Leadership Program.

Katie Watson, MPA, MSW, recently joined The Refuge for DMST staff following her previous work producing sex trafficking research for the FBI's Houston field office.