Published 7:55 pm, Saturday, March 11, 2017
Her handlers stabbed her, left her dying in the streets of Mexico in August 2016, but she saved the girl.
Tracie Mann of The Woodlands has been actively rescuing girls from sex trafficking on her own since 2004. Now as the founder and managing director of Phoenix Charity she oversees every aspect of the rescue and recovery operations and with a team of at least 30. Her team increases to about 100 with partners on the streets and from various levels of local and state law enforcement agencies in Montgomery and Harris counties, as well as federal agencies such as the FBI, DPS, and ICE.
She is working to provide hope and positively reprogram the mindset of the recovering children who on average are raped in excess of 100 times within 24 hours, beaten, drugged, and branded. As the owner of Body Restore Med Spa and Laser Center, which funds her recovery operations, her work allows her to remove the brand marks, tattoos, burns, and scars the children carry once rescued.
Mann stood before a captivated Liberty Belles Republican Woman audience in the Panorama Golf Club Thursday to educate the members and their guests on what to look for and how to protect themselves and their children.
She has worked on hundreds of sex trafficking cases in Montgomery County and surrounding areas and through her team worked with thousands of cases over the last six years. The majority of those cases go through her clinic for brand, burns, scars, and tattoo removal. In the month of February her clinic performed under $10,000 of work pro bono for about 48 clients. She will see those clients about five to 15 times in the clinic, she said. The average age is 12 to 14, including one 12-year-old girl who had to have her uterus removed, said Mann who has had abused children die in her arms. Many of the children do not have a father in their lives.
“Our family structure has fallen apart and it is affecting children,” Mann said.
The traffickers also deal weapons and drugs as part of the multibillion-dollar industry. While massage parlors have been in the news for sex and labor trafficking in Montgomery County including a recent raid at Holistic Massage in Willis on March 6, Mann informed the women about trafficking occurring at doctor’s offices, being transacted outside fast food chains, and reeling in children through social media and phone applications.
“We watched the sale and purchase outside a McDonalds in Montgomery County,” she said. “It happens. It happens in plain site because we all live in our own little bubbles.”
Mann encouraged the audience not to ignore the warning signs, to make eye contact with a child that appears self-conscious or of concern at the grocery store. If the child does not appear to be with her parents, she recommended writing down the license plate, a description of the vehicle and calling authorities or reaching out to her team.
Her sister Lisa Disbrow read children’s testimony during the program. The testimony shared that those who have been trafficked are often stripped of their clothes and shoes, so they can’t run, and are made to believe they are objects without hope, without options, and without help-even from medical staff who don’t ask the right questions or the police who may arrest them for prostitution or deport them.
Laws have tied the hands of law enforcement, according to Mann who advocated for a change and seeks to show the photos of “pimps,” “johns,” instead of the girls, holding hotel or business employees who help facilitate trafficking legally responsible, and establishing a “safe court.”
Montgomery-based attorney Maureen Ball joined the Liberty Belles Thursday and felt enlightened by the program.
“I thought it was wonderful because it brought awareness to a very serious and relevant problem in Montgomery County,” Ball said. “I think at times people put on blinders and organization like this shed light on extreme situations that exist in our backyard. I was very interested in the Phoenix Court/Safe Court girls court that she mentioned because these are true victims of crime and they should be processed in the system in the safe manner that looks at their future including the social services that could be connected with them not just a criminal prosecution.”
Precinct 1 Constable Philip Cash attended the program and said there is a need for manpower and training for Montgomery County law enforcement.
“Every law enforcement agency around here is strapped for manpower,” said Cash who previously worked at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department. “We work narcotics, gangs, vice, homicides and now we have human trafficking. It’s something that was traditionally done by big agencies and federal agencies. Now we are seeing it in our area, so (there is a need) for manpower, training, and educating the officers. Just like I’m doing here today, I learned a lot today. It’s a whole new avenue of investigations.”
He also noted the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office has established the Montgomery County Coalition Against Human Trafficking, which was forged following a massive human trafficking ring bust November 2015 that landed four people in jail for allegedly operating brothels as massage parlors in Montgomery and Harris counties.
Mann said she is training medical staff in Harris County. Following the program, Montgomery County Hospital District board member Bob Bagley said he is interested in having training incorporated in continuing education for medical staff.
Mann warned the women about traffickers pretending to be children’s classmates or the same age for online dating through social media and recommended asking the “child” to Facetime in front of the parents to confirm the age of the person. She encouraged the parents educate their children about trafficking and to monitor their social media use with the consideration that it is not about whether or not they trust their child, but whether or not they trust the people who may contacting them.
A trafficker used a Facebook friend request to lure a teenager in The Woodlands to a park to play soccer, she said.
“It took three months to locate her, six months to recover her, and it will take her 15 years to recover,” Mann said. “Three hours to contact. It’s that easy.”
Mann is dedicated to her mission.
“God kept me alive for a reason,” Mann said. “I believe the next generation will stop trafficking. But we have to change the way we operate. … There’s more people crying for help.”
Liberty Belles President Stacey Buick said the action-oriented political organization will be adopting The Phoenix Charity as its Care and Concern Project.
“We need to pursue what is holding up legislation and address it,” she said.