WATCH: Human Trafficking Survivor Shares Powerful Story With San Angelo
SAN ANGELO, TX - It was a beginning to the life she never saw coming. Dallas native Tonya Stafford was raised in the business of human trafficking. Her story has not only been proof of survival but serves as an advocate to help others of abuse in Dallas.
Stafford, the founder of It's Going To Be Ok Inc., was the guest speaker of Open Arms Rape Crisis Center & LBGT + Services on Tuesday speaking at the Stephens Library on the issues of human trafficking and providing support for abuse victims.
Her story began at the age of 13 when she was sold by her own mother for drugs.
"That wasn't supposed to be my life," says Stafford. "My life was with my grandmother. She taught me how to cook, clean and take care of my siblings. I was really excited about life and my journey."
Stafford described how her life was changed forever when her mother who was addicted to drugs eventually cleaned up her life and regained custody of her and siblings from her grandmother.
"Not too long after that she brought this man home," says Stafford. "This is your knew daddy."
WATCH: Human Trafficking Survivor Shares Her Story
According to Stafford it was three months after this father figure that had arrived began to molest her and her younger sisters. His suggestion to her and the others was shocking.
"Ya'll can't say nothing," says Stafford. "Who's going to want your momma with five kids? She ain't going to believe ya'll anyway."
Stafford said it wasn't her mom's husband that was abusing her and her siblings.
"Everybody just wants to violate me," says Stafford. "My mom's husband, his friends, his brothers, everybody is having a chance with us."
Stafford said she had nowhere to turn and was terrified to share these moments with her mother, but life, as she knew, was only set to take an even harder turn.
"It was about two or three months later that I was so sick and I didn't understand what my body was going through," says Stafford.
She learned that she had become pregnant and with no support from her mother
"She came into the room and said 'bitch you pregnant,'" says Stafford.
Tonya's life would forever change as a pregnant teen and now fully engulfed in the life of human trafficking.
"That's why he was able to rape me because I was the one," says Stafford. "They were exchanging money all this time during my pregnancy."
According to Stafford this man she was sold to had plans of her having 10 of his children, but she had only had three.
Stafford said her life was organized to cook, clean, and have sex with this man and received little to no support from the outside world not even from the local church.
"He would use the bible. My seed can't touch the ground," says Stafford. "They told me if it was meant for me to die by his hands that was God's will."
It wasn't until a new neighbor that moved in next door and gave her a way out. Stafford said this woman would share with her that she heard a lot of the activity going on in her home and that she kept a daily log of what she was wearing and if she left the home in case she ever came up missing.
This neighbor would eventually help Stafford and her children escape the grasp of this man.
"A lot of my strength comes from my children," says Stafford. "They give me strength and hope every day since the day they were born so that's where my strength comes from."
Since then Stafford has regained her life and is now an advocate to help those escape domestic abuse and human trafficking. Her non-profit organization, It's Going To Be Ok Inc., was founded in 2014. Her efforts have been so well received that on September 1, 2015, her efforts were received by the State of Texas in recognizing January as Human Trafficking Month (HB 2290).
For more on Tonya Stafford's story or how to donate to her foundation, you can visit her website. Meanwhile, if you know someone locally that could use assistance, you can contact the Open Arms Rape Crisis Center.
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