We wish we could know her as more than “Jane Doe” so we could let her know how proud we are that she had the courage to break the bonds of forced prostitution.
Last month, Jane Doe entered a Texas Department of Public Safety office to apply for an identification card. Nearby was a man who had accompanied her to the center.
This seemingly innocent scene soon revealed itself to be far from innocuous. The Fort Worth woman took a chance to furtively slip a note to a clerk. On the note were the words “I am a victim of human traficin (sic).”
Imagine a pimp so arrogant that he would enter a DPS office full of law enforcement officers with a woman he was pimping. Some women caught in a trafficker’s spell would have done nothing. Jane Doe pushed back.
The DPS clerk sized up the situation, and Jane Doe was quickly whisked to safety in a backroom. The man who entered the facility with her, a 23-year-old identified as Austin John Marshall, was arrested and charged with compelling prostitution.
Sexually exploited women face psychological manipulation and physical abuse from pimps seeking to control and exploit. Some delude themselves to believe that they are in a normal relationship with someone who cares. Others resign themselves to complying with sordid, demeaning demands to sell their bodies for money out of fear or broken self-respect. Their pimps monitor their every movement, making it difficult, if not impossible, to escape without some outside help.
This seems to have been Jane Doe’s path, according to details in Marshall’s arrest warrant. The woman told police that soon after they moved into an East Fort Worth apartment last fall, Marshall threatened to harm her dogs and choked her until she was unconscious. He also demanded that she become a prostitute “because she has a rocking body.”
There is much about this incident that we don’t know. Did Marshall manipulate other women? And, what might have happened to Jane Doe had she not summoned up the courage to plea for help in the DPS office?
Jane Doe did something many woman caught in similar situations often are too traumatized to do — she let someone know that she needed help. While a plea for help might seem fruitless to a woman under a pimp’s influence, it isn’t. The courageous act of seeking help is the best hope for breaking from a life of forced prostitution. Dozens of agencies in North Texas are able to provide support and refuge.
There are many hurdles ahead for Jane Doe, including court dates and the steps needed to regain her personal dignity. She has taken the most important step: refusing to allow a pimp to control her life.