09:41 AM

Author to share research about Houston sex trafficking

In Texas, over 35,000 children attend a public school that is within 1,000 feet of a suspected illegal massage business, reports the Center to End the Trafficking and Exploitation of Children. Houston is the largest hub in the country for sex trafficking — a fact retired attorney and author Patricia Holmes didn't know about at first.

"When I retired, a friend asked me to come and visit Freedom Place, a refuge for girls rescued from sex trafficking in this area," Holmes said. "I went and found out what a horrible experience they'd had. I never heard of sex trafficking. It was horrifying."

Eventually, after reading many more stories of women who were kidnapped and trafficked, she began looking more into the topic of survivors and met more people involved. "I realized I could write a book about this, and in doing that, I could bring more awareness to sex trafficking," she said.

In 2018, she wrote "Searching for Pilar," the story of a wife and mother who was abducted after being lured to a fake job interview in Mexico City, and forced into sex slavery in Houston.

Holmes will share her research and raise awareness about sex trafficking in a Friday Morning Continuing Education presentation at University of Houston-Clear Lake on Oct. 15 at 11 a.m.

"Houston has been very proactive about this problem, but it's not over," she said. "Grooming teens in high school has become a prolific problem. Teenagers are easy to lure and with a group that offers them things they don't have, it's easy."

She said it's a defined process in which pimps get kids in high schools to pick kids who seem vulnerable, and befriend them. "They talk badly about their parents, recruit them to go to a party, and become part of the group," she said. "Then, they might say, 'Come to this party in Dallas. Tell your mom you're spending the night with your friend.' Then, they end up in a place and they're not allowed to leave."

Trafficked girls are threatened and drugged. "The pimp will say he knows where her family lives and he'll kill them," she said. "The girls are restrained, forced into sex with strange men, shamed, and told they're worthless and lost, and their family does not want them back, so they have to stay."

The average time a young woman remains in a brothel or massage parlor is 7-10 years. "It's a brutal life, and they don't live long," she said.

Holmes said she is not an activist — she just wants to make people aware of this problem in Houston. "I hope people who come to my presentation will realize what the situation is, and be aware of it for their daughters and granddaughters," she said. "I hope some might also get involved in the fight against sex trafficking. It's such a huge problem. I'm retired, but if I can make one person aware and save one girl, then it's all worthwhile."

For more information about UH-Clear Lake's Friday Morning Continuing Education program, or to register for classes, go online.