Culture / Newsy

Sex Trafficking and Socialites: When Two Worlds Collide — and Women of Fashion Vow to Help

BY // 09.07.18
photography Daniel Ortiz

Sex trafficking and socialites would seem about as distant a combination as one could imagine. That is unless you lunched in Tony’s luxe San Remo Room on Wednesday when the shocking realities of Houston’s illicit sex trade were served along with chicken salad and chocolate mousse.

Actually, it would be a disservice to dismiss the 100 women and sprinkling of men attending the Crime Stoppers of Houston gathering as mere socialites. They were, in fact, concerned citizens, who — despite their designer handbags and stylish attire — were prepared to digest the facts and accept the warnings of experts battling the city’s notorious sex trade. And as they learned, these crimes occur in River Oaks, West University, the Galleria as well as the expected less glamorous locales.

As one of the organizers of  the “Women Who Shape Houston” luncheon and Crime Stoppers board member Donae Chramosta aka The Vintage Contessa noted, “We are women of fashion but we are all willing to fight for something that we believe in. We can all make a difference.”

She was joined by fashion designer Hunter Bell and lifestyle blogger Caroline Harper Knapp in partnership with Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious in the explicit discussion by experts on sexual assault, sex trafficking, bullying and date rape drugs.

Girls dragged from hotel room to hotel room servicing five to 10 men a day, girls parked in storage units with mattresses, girls kidnapped from the streets of River Oaks and West University, girls forcibly addicted to heroin so that they remain in the trade, girls unwittingly targeted in public places for grooming — the horrific truths were powerful enough to curb appetites if not make one physically ill.

Cutting to the Chase: “Talk to your children” was the loud and clear message. Step out of your comfort zone and discuss these harsh realities — in gentle terms — so that your children will be aware and know what to watch for and what to avoid.

Two sex trafficking survivors RN Rachel Fischer and Elijah Rising‘s Kathy McGibbons shared their stories and their life’s work today aiding those caught in the sex trade. The strongest revelation of the day was the process of  “grooming” young girls, particularly those 11 through 13, who get caught up in friendships and “love” relationships by doting pimps who lavish their targets with gifts, isolate them from friends and family and gain their trust, eventually snaring them in the downward spiral of sexual abuse.

The Bottom Line: Retired Texas Ranger chief Tony Leal, PPI Security CEO, advised those in the room to make their voices heard, to perhaps take the path of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, who have effectively changed the attitudes about and punishment for drunk driving. Johns should be shamed. Pimps should get long-term prison sentences. And the prostituted women should be given help.

Crime Stoppers Approach: The nonprofit’s director of the Safe School Institute Michelle Sachs shared information on the free year-round programs that in 2017 reached more than 40,000 students and assisted law enforcement in solving 15 school cases and removing five weapons, including a Glock 17 (9) millimeter automatic weapon, from area schools.

Concerned citizens: Jerri Duddleston Moore, Deborah Duncan, Sukaina Rajani, Gabriela Gerhart, Kim Moody, Rachel Regan, Toni Lawrence, Stephanie Perkins, Crystle Stewart, Kendra Phillips, Beth Muecke, Sippi Khurana, Nancy Almodovar, Caroline Brown, Jill Naponic, Caroline Harrell, and Katie Conroy.

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