Saturday is Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The entire month of January is recognizing the issue, too.
It brings to light the invisible epidemic in our own backyard -- Texas is the second-largest hub for sex trafficking in the country.
The city of Dallas is one of the top 10 cities nationwide with the most sex trafficking.
New Friends New Life, the only local drop-in center dedicated to helping trafficking victims between 12 to 24 years old, says an estimated 400 teens trafficked on the Dallas-Fort Worth streets each night.
The latest news from around North Texas.
The average age they enter the sex trade is 13 to 15. Most of them are runaways, which can be trafficked within 48 hours of leaving home.
We sat down with Annette Bailey, a New Friends New life mentor who herself is a survivor of human trafficking. She spent 25 years on the streets, suffering from sexual assault and drug addiction.
“I was standing on corners and getting in and out of cars. I was being raped. I was being beaten. All of this was because of my habit and what the drugs were doing to me. And many times, I could’ve lost my life and one time I almost did," she shared. "But things turned around in my life. Situations turned around where I found a possibility of hope."
As a mentor with NFNL for three years now, the 60-year old now helping other victims overcome their past, just as she did.
“It was like my brain came back alive, and all of these resources and opportunities started to awaken me and I began to be alive again. and all of the possibilities that were there. I want these young women to know that hope is still alive. Because if you have hope you live. you live another day," she said.
There are some other efforts being made to help fight back against human trafficking in the Metroplex.
Recently, New Friends New Life launched a monthly bus tour that takes people around the city to expose the reality of sex trafficking in Dallas.
Attendees can make firsthand observations of possible sex trafficking and exploitation activity while discussing trafficking cases worked by Dallas Law enforcement. The program features in-motion, interactive discussions with representatives from The Department of Homeland Security and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Tours are booked up for the month, but the organization is thinking of increasing the tours to twice a month due to demand.
New Friends New Life has also just finalized a partnership with American Airlines in an effort to engage corporations in the fight against human trafficking.
As part of the partnership, American team members will be able to engage in human trafficking awareness training sessions and volunteer activities organized in cooperation with New Friends New Life. The company will support New Friends New Life’s annual luncheon, as well as have an American executive serve on the organization’s board of directors.
Additionally, North Texas restaurants are banding together by quietly reaching out to victims of human trafficking, letting them know there's help.
The Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, helped launch a new anti-trafficking program. Participating restaurants will place placards in restrooms directing victims on how they can get help.
The placards are free to any restaurant or fast-food establishment that wants to get involved. Click here to request one.
HOW TO HELP
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
You can also send a text for help to 233-733.
New Friends New Life can be reached for counseling and support by calling 214-965-0935.