Woman traded sexually as child by mother for drugs

A 13-year-old girl was given to her mother’s drug dealer in 1988 to pay for her mother’s habit. For the next two years, the drug dealer used the teenager to make money in the sex trafficking industry.

Amanda Dobyns, 39, said her mother “had a pretty severe drug habit all her life.”

One day, her mother came home and told her she was going to go “with him,” her mother’s drug dealer, Dobyns said. Dobyns ended up staying a week at his home.

“I just thought that it would mean that I would clean his house and never dreamed that he would use me for sex and have other men come in and have sex with me,” she said.

Dobyns can’t remember how many men raped her that week.
After that, the school year began and she was first traded once a week, then twice a week to the dealer to pay for her mother’s drugs. Then, she began spending the weekends at his house.
“Probably 20 or so men would come during the weekend,” she said.

To this day she can’t be around the smell of beer and cigarettes, because it’s a trigger. When exposed to those smells “I pretty much almost have a panic attack and it brings back flashbacks,” Dobyns said.

Her mother would leave Dobyns and her two sisters, five and seven years younger, for weeks at a time while on a drug binge.
“I was taking care of them like I was their mom,” she said.

Dobyns was threatened in order to remain compliant.  “I was a straight ‘A’ student, and they threatened that if I didn’t keep my grades up at a ‘B’ or higher, then my mother would be beaten,” Dobyns said.

She was also told that if she said anything to her grandparents that they would her hurt her sisters.

Those threatening the harm were not only the drug dealer, but also her mother, she said.

“I definitely thought about killing her (mother) at times, especially when I was being raped,” Dobyns said.

She learned how to disassociate herself from what was happening by “thinking about my sisters and anything else that was happening.”

There was one opportunity that could have rescued Dobyns from her nightmare.

“I actually talked to a ninth-grade school counselor and told her about the drugs and physical abuse,” Dobyns said. “She turned around and called my mother and told her what I had said. I probably got the worst beating that I’d ever gotten when I got home.”

“After that, I never spoke out again,” she said.

Four times during her two-year enslavement Dobyns attempted suicide. The last time was when she was 15 when she overdosed on pills.

“The trigger for that was that one of my friends told me that I was just like my mom. I couldn’t see being like her, so I tried to kill myself,” Dobyns said.

The abuse stopped when she was 15 years old.  “My best friend’s mom found out that my mother was leaving us weeks at a time and reported my mom to the police for neglect and abandonment,” she said.

The police found out from Dobyns that her mother had not been home for three weeks and contacted her grandfather. They told him to take the children “and not let us live with my mother again or we would be put into state custody,” she said.

When her mother returned two weeks later she found out she had lost custody of all three children. Her mother died in 2003.

After the abuse stopped, Dobyns became very promiscuous and got pregnant at 17 with her daughter, she said. She gave birth a month before graduating from high school.

“By the grace of God I was not exposed to STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases),” Dobyns said. “I don’t know how. I never ever had STD’s from the sexual trafficking or the promiscuity I did later on.”

Dobyns married her husband, Devan, 12 years ago. Two years into her marriage she told her husband about the physical, mental and emotional abuse by her mother. But it wasn’t until another seven years passed that she finally told him about her involvement in sex trafficking.

Coming from a two-parent family, her husband couldn’t understand how a parent could treat their children that way, Dobyns said.
“Devan didn’t even know what sex trafficking was and was in disbelief that it could happen,” she said. But “he’s been very, very supportive.”

She is working on her bachelor’s degree in social work. She is a junior at the Northeastern State University’s Broken Arrow campus, where she is carrying a 4.0 grade point average.
Previously, she graduated with honors from Tulsa Community College with an associate degree in social work. She’s absolutely certain that there is an association between her abusive history and her degree, she said.

“I want to work with human trafficking survivors and abused children and find a way to help their parents be parents,” Dobyns said. “I don’t want to have the kids taken away (from their parents), but at the same time you don’t want to be too late.”

Because of her bad experience with a school counselor she believes all counselors and teachers should be trained in human trafficking and what to look for.

As for her abusers, she’s forgiven all of them, even the man who forced her into sex trafficking.

Her act of forgiveness is possible because of her belief in God, she said.  “Just knowing that God was able to forgive me of my sins, take care of me and forgive me, then I don’t have any right not to forgive them,” she said.

Dobyns is a member of Christians Against Trafficking, which meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Tulsa.

“They afford me the opportunity to meet with people who support me and allow me to work raising awareness of sex trafficking in Tulsa and the outlying areas,” Dobyns said.

Casper infant abuse trial begins Monday

Child Abuse
Stephanie Shirts

Casper, Wyoming – The trial of a woman accused of burning a 14-month-old girl’s face with a hot pan last year is scheduled to begin Monday.

Attorneys are expected to begin questioning potential jurors who will hear the case against Stephanie Shirts, the 25-year-old woman accused of rolling a saucepan on an infant’s face and shaking the baby with enough force to require trauma care. The trial will be held in Natrona County District Court.

Authorities also accuse Shirts of suffocating the girl with a blanket. The infant was taken in September by helicopter to the children’s hospital in Aurora, Colorado, with a brain bleed and bleeding in the eyes.

Shirts was charged Sept. 18 with four counts of child abuse, four counts of child endangerment with methamphetamine and one count of aggravated child abuse. She faces 65 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Shirts and her attorney, Sarah Jacobs, unsuccessfully attempted to postpone the trial. Jacobs questioned the Casper Police Department’s handling of her client’s interrogation, claiming Shirts was detained without being properly advised of her Miranda rights.

Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking ruled last week that Shirts received a proper Miranda warning and acted voluntarily. Wilking denied a motion to further delay Shirts’ trial in order to hear more expert testimony.

Wilking also ruled prosecutors can introduce past evidence of child abuse by Shirts. Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen presented evidence Tuesday suggesting that Shirts, sometime before the burning allegations, repeatedly struck a small child at a Casper convenience store.

The child was reportedly buckled in a car seat in the back seat of Shirts’ car. The Aug. 26 incident was reported by two witnesses and caught on store surveillance cameras. Although Casper police officers investigated the report, no arrests were made.

Shirts’ trial was originally set to begin on Feb. 2. Wilking reluctantly delayed the trial after Shirts requested Jacobs replace the public defender initially appointed to represent her.

The infant’s mother, Bobbi Humphreys, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of felony child endangerment with methamphetamine and one count of misdemeanor child endangering. Prosecutors recommended she serve two to five years in the Wyoming Women’s Center.

Jason Cathcart, 37, who lived with Shirts and Humphreys, pleaded guilty last month to possessing methamphetamine and endangering the children who lived with him. Prosecutors said they will recommend Cathcart be sentenced to four to five years in prison.

The three adults admitted to smoking methamphetamine in their home on South Fairdale Avenue on the morning the infant was taken to the hospital. Humphreys allegedly left the 14-month-old in her playpen while she went to Wal-Mart.

Cathcart and Shirts heard the baby crying and took her out of the playpen to change her diaper. Shirts said she put a blanket over the child’s face because she wouldn’t quit crying.

The child quit breathing and turned blue, Shirts told police. She gave the baby CPR, and the infant started breathing again.  Humphreys arrived home shortly after and took the baby to the hospital.

Authorities searched the home and found synthetic marijuana and meth.