HOUSTON — The devastating impact of sex trafficking in Houston is far reaching, and the problem may be much bigger than many think. It's important to shine a light on the victims of sex trafficking and the effect it has on their families, in addition to making known the challenges many face while trying to help.
The testimonies of those affected reveal that Houston's sex trafficking problem is not always the Hollywood portrayal of kidnapped women and international auctions.
“I was groomed for a year. I thought I was in a great relationship for a whole year," Katherine Mcgibbon said. "With me, he identified my weaknesses and he used that. He was like 'Ok well, she doesn't have a father, I'll be that father for her.'”
It was supposed to be a fresh start, but life quickly changed for Mcgibbon after she moved to a new city under the intentions of helping her boyfriend with his music career.
“Once he got me away from my environment and my comfort zone, he was very blunt about what was going to happen," she said. "To go out there every single night and have your body violated...he was a monster. He was willing to just put me out there with strangers at any price. They've taken precautions not to get caught. That's part of the control in the first place like 'you know you can't go home, right? Because you're mine. And you know what'll happen if you go home and you know what'll happen to your children, right?'” Mcgibbon said.
Despite efforts to battle back, sex trafficking has expanded into unexpected places. To fully understand the gravity of the situation, Houstonians must hear the stories of victims and their families.
It's a misconception that latchkey kids — children with uninvolved parents, broken homes or single-parent houses — are the exclusive victims of sex trafficking, parent Staci Henderson said.
"It came into my own home via computer with my 12-year-old daughter," Henderson said. "This person came in and friended her on Instagram with a full, fake profile that I saw. And it was a teenage girl and it looked legit to me."
ALSO WATCH: Texas by Numbers: Human trafficking
Henderson said the relationship soon graduated from Instagram and into other communication.
"They were grooming her for something, and I don't know what," she said. "I think there was going to be a meeting that was coming, but they were trying to coerce photos from her."
The FBI got involved and came to the family's home. It turned out her daughter wasn't the predator's only target.
"In my case, they were tracking this person," she said. "I feel like I need to tell people, that it can happen to anybody. It comes right into your home through your child's cell phone," Henderson said.
After learning about how sex trafficking has plagued Houston, many have answered the call for help by providing resources and counseling.
Anyone who suspects or knows of someone whose life is being affected by sex trafficking is asked to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
Those concerned can also check out the following resources: