Amanda Jones and her daughter Khylia have a bond that cannot easily be broken. Jones is a survivor of sex trafficking, an infamous business that occurs right here in Dallas.
On Sept. 30, the Brazos Gallery held a reception for the exhibit, “In You We Trust,” spotlighting the issue of sex trafficking locally.
The reception was hosted by professors Jen Rose and Marian Lefeld, the artists who created the exhibit of more than 2,000 ceramic coins. With the help of 200 volunteers, the objects were painted gold with oil-based paint. Together they created an exhibit that was breathtaking.
The idea behind the “In You We Trust” exhibit is to raise awareness about sex trafficking with a younger audience. In the exhibit, viewers witness row upon row of striking gold coins lined up on display shelves throughout the gallery. In the front window, there is a noticeable two-and-a-half foot pile of coins that symbolizes how victims are thrown away as if they were worthless. The coins also represent the voices of children who are involved but too afraid to speak up about their situations.
Walking around the exhibit, people viewed the pieces of art up close. Some may have noticed each coin is slightly different; the uneven edges and marks represent the emotional scarring of the victims.
At the reception, Jones shared her story with the students. Her parents divorced when she was young. At 12, her mother began dating. The boyfriends sexually abused Jones and when she tried to talk about it with her mother, things got tense.
Soon, their mother-daughter relationship dissolved and by 13, Jones was out on the streets. For the next two years she scavenged for food and shelter. At 15, her “best friend” at the time gave her phone number to a man who had been pursuing her. After several weeks, Jones relented and went out with him. “As soon as I got into that car,” Jones said. “I knew something wasn’t right.”
Twenty-four hours later, she had been sexually assaulted and was back on the streets. Within three weeks of meeting him, he branded her neck with a tattoo of his name and claimed her as property. She was emotionally, physically and sexually assaulted by the man for two years.
She said she stayed, out of fear, because she had nowhere else to go. He threatened her and her family. At 17, she was pregnant with his child and gave birth to her daughter Khylia, who she calls the light of her life.
“From that point on, I knew I had to do something about my situation. It’s by the grace of God that we’re both standing here in front of you today,” Jones said. She escaped not long after the birth of her child.
Jones offered advice as she looked around the room.
“They say they’ll help you, but they won’t,” she said. “They manipulate you for their own self-gratification.”
She also shared a warning about using social media, saying it only takes one post like “I hate my parents” for a predator to target a potential victim.
When Jones was 24, her mother passed away. She was free weeks later. Since then, she had her tattoo removed, earned her GED, an associate’s degree and has worked as an accountant for the past decade. Jones remains active in her community and works to help young girls who are experiencing abuse similar to her own.
The “In You We Trust” exhibit is on view through Oct. 17 at the Brazos Gallery in Crockett Hall.