Tonya Stafford, On a Mission to End Human Trafficking

Woman sold into sex slavery at the age of 13 by her own mother now works to protect women, children, and vulnerable adults.

Tonya Stafford spends much of her time telling her personal story of human trafficking in an effort to save others from a similar fate.[1] She describes being only 13 when her own mother sold her to a man in exchange for drug money. Tonya essentially lived as a sex slave for 10 years, enduring frequent beatings and rapes as well as extreme psychological cruelty.[2]  Tonya was the mother of three children by the age of 17. These children became her motivation to hang on despite seemingly little reason for hope until, one day, a neighbor reached out to offer help. Working together, the two women devised and executed a plan. Tonya was finally free.[3]  She now runs a non-profit, It’s Going To Be Okay Inc. (IGTBOK), that is dedicated to advocacy and support to ultimately end the scourge of human trafficking once and for all.[4]   

In a testimony recorded by Trinity Church, Tonya offered details from her story. She described coming home one day to find all her belongings packed and next to the door. Her mother informed her that there was a man waiting outside in a car and that Tonya needed to go with him. Tonya pleaded with her mother to not make her go, but her mother insisted. Tonya complied, then lived for years under this man’s almost complete control. She endured beatings that were often loud and violent, rarely leaving the house or speaking to anyone. Tonya’s neighbor, probably suspecting that something was wrong, took notice and slowly began to engage Tonya with friendly gestures. Although initially hesitant to trust, Tonya could sense her neighbor’s evident concern. For whatever reason, she decided to trust enough one ordinary day as she was taking out the trash. Seeing Tonya in the yard, the neighbor simply asked, “are you okay”, and Tonya admitted needing help. Working together, the two women arranged for Tonya to escape to a safe house where she would stay temporarily. Once in the safe house, Tonya reportedly slept for days.[5]  Having a neighbor dare to speak up, Tonya stated, probably saved her life.[6]

Texas ranks second in the nation for human trafficking crime, with only California faring worse. The National Human Trafficking Hotline received 31,945 calls, most for sex trafficking, in 2013. Of these, 2,236 calls were from Texas, with many from the Dallas area. This involved a 55 percent call increase year-over-year. Mosaic Family Services, a Dallas-based organization that provides support for victims of human trafficking, also reported a significant increase in calls to their hotline over the same period, from 100 calls in 2012 to about 250 calls in 2013.[7]

Through her nonprofit, IGTBOK Inc., Tonya is developing a variety of educational programs designed to help people recognize the signs of trafficking as well as recognize people who may be at risk of being trafficked. These programs also provide information on where to find help and how to report a suspected crime. Tonya’s target audiences include healthcare providers, law enforcement, and local businesses as well as professionals who work closely with minors (e.g., school counselors, teachers, and juvenile probation officers) and the minors themselves.[8]

As an extension of her work with IGTBOK Inc., Tonya also volunteers with The Prostitution Diversion Initiative implemented by the Dallas Police Department, a program designed to recognize prostitutes as victims rather than criminals. She served in various leadership roles with Head Start of Greater Dallas and worked as the National Community Liaison for Dallas Men Winning Against Domestic Violence. Tonya earned a degree in Early Childhood Education, became a Certified Mediator as well as a Registered Level Trainer with The Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System, and received training through Texas Against Sexual Assault. Regardless of which roles she plays, Tonya devotes her time, her energy, and her knowledge in the service of satisfying her vision to “eradicate human trafficking one survivor at a time through rescue, restoration, and education.”[9]

 


Footnotes

[1] The Attorney General of Texas. “Be The One,” Filmed 2017. Video, 52:11. https://vimeo.com/244718411.

[2] It’s Going to be Okay. http://www.igtbok.org.

[3] Trinity Church. “Tanya Stafford Testimony.” Filmed March 3, 2017. Video, 7:10. https://www.trinitychurch.org/story/tonya-stafford-testimony

[4] It’s Going to be Okay. http://www.igtbok.org.

[5] Trinity Church. “Tanya Stafford Testimony.” Filmed March 3, 2017. Video, 7:10. https://www.trinitychurch.org/story/tonya-stafford-testimony

[6] The Attorney General of Texas. “Be The One,” Filmed 2017. Video, 52:11. https://vimeo.com/244718411

[7] Murvosh, Sarah. “Texas Ranks No. 2 for Human Trafficking Crime.” Dallas News, January, 2014. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2014/01/27/texas-ranks-no-2-for-human-trafficking-crime

[8] It’s Going to be Okay. http://www.igtbok.org

[9] It’s Going to be Okay. http://www.igtbok.org

Bibliography

IGTBOK Inc. “House bill 2290: Testimony of Human trafficking Survivor Tonya Stafford.” YouTube video, 10:26. Posted August 30 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7N3Rt_EH-c

 It’s Going to be Okay. http://www.igtbok.org

 Murvosh, Sarah. “Texas Ranks No. 2 for Human Trafficking Crime.” Dallas News, January, 2014. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2014/01/27/texas-ranks-no-2-for-human-trafficking-crime

 National Human Trafficking Hotline. “Hotline Statistics.” https://humantraffickinghotline.org/states

 The Attorney General of Texas. “Be The One,” Filmed 2017. Video, 52:11. https://vimeo.com/244718411

 Trinity Church. “Tanya Stafford Testimony.” Filmed March 3, 2017. Video, 7:10. https://www.trinitychurch.org/story/tonya-stafford-testimony

Images

Street of home where Tonya Stafford was sold

Street of home where Tonya Stafford was sold

Street of home where Tonya Stafford lived when she was sold by her mother. | Source: Suzanne Tuckey View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford at 15

Tonya Stafford at 15

Tonya Stafford at age 15. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Home of neighbor

Home of neighbor

Home where Tonya Stafford's neighbor and rescuer lived. | Source: Suzanne Tuckey View File Details Page

Home where Tonya Stafford was held

Home where Tonya Stafford was held

Home where Tonya Stafford was held and abused by her perpetrator. | Source: Suzanne Tuckey View File Details Page

IGTBOK Hope and Pearls Gala

IGTBOK Hope and Pearls Gala

Attendees at the Hope and Pearls Gala, an annual IGTBOK fundraising event. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Stop the Traffick event

Stop the Traffick event

Group gathered during the first IGTBOK-sponsored Stop the Traffick walk/run fundraising event. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford and her rescuer

Tonya Stafford and her rescuer

Tonya Stafford revisiting her former neighbor who helped rescue her from years of abuse and sexual assault. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford giving food to homeless man

Tonya Stafford giving food to homeless man

Tonya Stafford giving food to a homeless man during the second annual IGTBOK-sponsored Stop the Traffick walk/run event. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford when living with her perpetrator

Tonya Stafford when living with her perpetrator

Tonya Stafford during the time she lived with ongoing abuse at the hands of her perpetrator. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with her 6th grade Principal

Tonya Stafford with her 6th grade Principal

Tonya Stafford with her 6th grade Principal, reunited after many years. Tonya describes him as a significant support, then and now. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with her four grown children

Tonya Stafford with her four grown children

Tonya Stafford with her four grown children celebrating her daughter™s 20th birthday party. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with participants at Stop the Traffick event

Tonya Stafford with participants at Stop the Traffick event

Tonya Stafford with participants during the second annual IGTBOK-sponsored Stop the Traffick walk/run fundraising event. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton and others

Tonya Stafford with Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton and others

Tonya Stafford with Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton and others at the premiere for Be the One, a documentary on human trafficking in Texas. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton

Tonya Stafford with Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton

Tonya Stafford with Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton at the premiere for Be the One, a documentary on human trafficking in Texas. | Creator: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with Texas Rep Tan Parker

Tonya Stafford with Texas Rep Tan Parker

Tonya Stafford with Texas Representative Tan Parker celebrating the passage of the Texas bill HB2290 designating January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Texas. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford with US Congressman Davis and others

Tonya Stafford with US Congressman Davis and others

Tonya Stafford with US Congressman Rodney Davis and others. In Washington DC to receive the 2018 American Mothers Achievement Award. | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Tonya Stafford

Tonya Stafford

Tonya Stafford | Source: Tonya Stafford View File Details Page

Street Address:

2526 Keeler Street #3, Dallas, TX 75215 [map]

Cite this Page:

Suzanne Tuckey, PhD, “Tonya Stafford, On a Mission to End Human Trafficking ,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed December 17, 2018, http://humanrightsdallasmaps.com/items/show/10.

Share this Story