Survivor Speaks Out at Human Trafficking Summit at Del Mar - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Survivor Speaks Out at Human Trafficking Summit at Del Mar

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CORPUS CHRISTI (Kiii News) -

The problem of domestic human trafficking took center stage Friday at Del Mar College's Center for Economic Development.

It was a day-long summit hosted by State Representative Todd Hunter, and it featured a young woman named Rebekah Charleston, who considers herself a survivor of human trafficking.

"When it's something that you have to shut your body off and go into survival mode every single day and be raped, abused in any way, shape or form, every day, it's a whole different type of trauma that you're dealing with," Charleston said.

Some 350 people packed a room to hear the human trafficking survivor talk about her life and her decision to change it. Charleston left a Christian-based family in the Dallas area at the age of 16 and followed a 15-year trail of drugs, sex, and finally, prostitution, at the hands of someone she trusted.

"A 17-year old girl that meets a 37-year old man out, who is only out to manipulate and control them," Charleston said. "That wasn't really my choice. He used me, and that's a really hard thing to admit for us."

Charleston said her arrest at the hands of federal authorities led to a jail term and her return to the area she was raised.

The summit, conducted by State Representative Todd Hunter, was aimed at education and awareness. Hunter announced a bill has been passed to study the problem statewide.

"I feel like if I just had that mentor type person, that individual that I could share things with, that I didn't have to hide anything from, then that would have made a huge impact on my life," Charleston said.

One of the many church leaders in attendance believes modern churches are much more relatable to young men and women.

"We were never called to be the sin police. Ever," said David Bendett, Senior Pastor of Rock City Church. "That's what man-made religion does."

Blue Nation is a group focused on the eradication of human slavery. Their Corpus Christi operations director says the summit and Charleston's testimony is an answered prayer.

"To see the crowd that came out today, and to see the progress that we've made in the last four years, is tremendous," said Marlene Villarreal of Blue Nation.

Charleston had a warning for the crowd.

"Men are buying sex. Men are buying dances for their sons for their 18th birthdays, for their 16th birthdays," Charleston said. "Our men are training our young boys to become part of the demand."

It was a warning met with applause by the crowd.

Blue Nation said they are less than six months away from opening a shelter in Corpus Christi for girls and women in the commercial sex trade.