Hidden in Plain Sight

Posted Sunday August 15, 2010 1:41pm
Human Trafficking and Slavery in Central Texas

Investigative Report by Shelley Seale
©The Austin Bulldog 2010

The boy was 16 years old. His sister was 14. They had run away from an abusive home in Oregon and somehow ended up in Texas. The siblings first came to the attention of authorities when “David,” the brother, was arrested for prostitution and drug possession. Severe health problems required him to be transferred from jail to the university hospital in San Antonio.

There, David’s attending physician was appalled by the extent of injuries she discovered. In addition to being malnourished and exhibiting multiple old injuries that could only have resulted from years of chronic abuse, he suffered from significant fresh, internal injuries that required surgery to resection his bowels. Once he was treated and stabilized, David was scheduled to be reincarcerated, but the doctor couldn’t, in good conscience, send him back to prison. She knew David’s injuries were not self-inflicted or accidental—all the signs showed he had been brutally victimized.

Leticia Van de PutteThat day in 2006, the telephone rang on the desk of State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio). The senator, who is currently serving her fifth term, was aware of human trafficking related to border smuggling and she was already working on legislation to address it when she took the call that would forever change her perception of the issue.

“I don’t know who else to call,” David’s doctor told the senator, who revealed details about the boy’s life leading up to his arrest. He and his sister had both been targeted by exploiters who coerced them into prostitution through psychological manipulation, physical violence, and forced drug use. The trump card was his sister; the abusers threatened to hurt her if David resisted or tried to flee.

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