Human trafficking has become pervasive, not just in the United States as a whole but especially right here in Texas.

The Lone Star State has the second-highest number of reported sex trafficking cases in the country, with Dallas ranking among the top 10 cities nationwide for sex trafficking cases, according to Texas Health and Human Services.

In the most recent episode of The Dallas Express Podcast, host Sarah Zubiate Bennett was joined by Ty Bowden and Sheniquia “Nikki” Lockett to discuss sex trafficking and how to raise awareness about the issue.

Ty Bowden is the associate director at The Net Fort Worth, an organization that fights against trafficking in Tarrant County. The Net Fort Worth uses its resources for outreach, advocacy, and enrichment for survivors of human trafficking. Through various programs targeted towards survivors, The Net Fort Worth has been able to help victims overcome their struggles and build a new life.

“Everything we do is relationally based,” Bowden shared. “We believe that really all we are providing is support and opportunity for these women to rebuild their lives on their own because that’s what they’re capable of.”

Lockett, a victim of sex trafficking herself and founder of Lost Lilies, shared her testimony on the podcast. She was subjected to sexual abuse as a child and was later groomed by a member of her church. She kept her experiences to herself before sharing them with her mother a year later. She explained that those experiences distorted her thinking about what sex is.

She said she came to the realization that the life she was living was dangerous and unhealthy. That’s when she decided to seek help from local organizations such as Hope’s Door.

“I was trying hard to get employment,” Lockett said. “I reached out to Hope’s Door and applied for a job. … They hired me and gave me an opportunity.”

She started working for Hope’s Door as an advocate and was then promoted to a case manager.

The podcast went on to address some of the most common misconceptions surrounding sex trafficking.

“I think the number one biggest misconception is that it … happens over there [in foreign countries] only,” Bowden commented. “Obviously, those things happen, but it happens right here.”

When asked about how societal and cultural norms are facilitating domestic abuse and sex trafficking, Bowden shared some insight about pornography.

“I think we have conditioned generations of men to believe that women are primarily there for their sexual gratification,” he said. “That happens through a culture that teaches men that the only emotion they are allowed to feel is anger, and if you’re not feeling anger, you’re too feminine.”

“It’s conditioned through pornography. One of the best quotes I’ve heard about pornography is that it gives men ‘crushingly unrealistic expectations of how women are supposed to look and how they are supposed to act.’ And so we have an entire generation of men who have grown up, and that’s their primary sex education, is seeing women degraded, demeaned, physically assaulted, and [they think] that’s what sex is supposed to be like,” Bowden explained.

The Net Fort Worth also hosts events, such as quarterly breakfasts, for men who seek to learn more about sex trafficking and how they can be part of the solution. The organization aims to empower men to take these important conversations into the workplace, the home, and other spheres of influence.

Lockett and Bowden both encouraged listeners to reach out to anti-trafficking organizations, whether as survivors or just concerned citizens who want to learn more about combatting sex trafficking.

Such organizations include include: