Twenty-eight year old “Yvette” currently sits behind bars in the state of Texas. The name “Yvette” is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of this young woman who is a victim of double victimization. Yvette grew up surrounded by chaos. As a child, she was a victim of sexual abuse and was never given the stability that a young woman needs in order to grow and thrive in society. At the age of 15, she ran away from her San Antonio home to escape sexual abuse.
In the years following her escape, Yvette began working as a dancer to support herself. During this time she fell victim to a drug and alcohol addiction. By the time Yvette was 23, she had been targeted by a pimp in San Antonio, Texas, who went by the nickname “Red Nose''. This man trafficked Yvette and other victims in a prostitution ring that was run out of Texas. He listed Yvette as a “sexy lil Latina” in online ads and forced her to perform sexual acts for money that he would then collect. Red Nose also physically and metally abused Yvette during the time that he was trafficking her. This young girl was victim to a multitude of heinous crimes carried out by an older man who took advantage of her vulnerability. And yet, despite all the ways in which Yevette was a victim, she was still charged with a crime and now sits behind bars.
In October of 2015, Yvette was charged with trafficking a minor. During the time in which she was being held in Red Nose’s prostitution ring, she met a young girl who goes by the pseudonim “Jade”. Yvette felt pity for this young girl, as she knew how it felt to be the victim of trafficking and sexual exploitation. For this reason, Yvette began to “show Jade the ropes” in order to make her experience easier, and avoid backlash from their mutual captor, Red Nose.
One night, a deal went wrong between Red Nose and a buyer, and the police were called. Yvette, who was present at the scene, was charged with aggravated robbery and the trafficking of a minor due to the guidance she had previously given young Jade. Despite the fact that Yevette was a human trafficking victim herself, the state of Texas views her and her trafficker as equally guilty. Yvette is now serving out a 23 year sentence in federal prison, while her pimp “Red Nose '' only received a 10 year sentece for the trafficking of a minor.
Yvette is a victim of both human sex trafficking, and a flawed criminal justice system that seeks convictions over justice.
The state of Texas is one of 30 states in the U.S that does not allow for human trafficking victims to assert an affirmative defense. Affirmative defense refers to the criminal defense one could use if they, as a victim of human trafficking, were forced to carry out certain illegal actions by their traffickers. In states where this defense is allowed, defendants who present ample credible evidence of their victimization are free of criminal liability. Sadly, Yvette was never able to assert this defense, and therefore, the courts never considered her experience as a victim.
The Texas criminal justice system has put in ample effort over the last decade to secure a higher number of sex-trafficking convictions throughout the state. Numbers show that their efforts are working, however the legal avenues used to secure this increased number of convictions often fail to protect victims such as Yvette. The criminal justice system is flawed in its inability to differentiate a criminal from a young woman forced to carry out criminal actions. Victims such as Yvette deserve a chance for rehabilitation. This young woman is not a criminal. However, the state of Texas has identified her as one for the sake of embellishing their human trafficking arrest statistics. If you want to request action by the legislature or express your opinion on these legislative issues, you can go to the committee pages of the Senate and House of Representatives to contact them.
Yours in the fight,
Camran Shealy and Lucy Hu