AUSTIN — Toni McKinley gently held the pendant around her neck. The tiny, heart-shaped locket would make anyone believe she kept her closest love near her heart.
“I never put a picture in it,” McKinley said. “I didn't know who to put in it. I didn't know who I love. I didn't know who loves me.”
She said she hasn’t worn the necklace in years, but felt like putting it on for this day -- her birthday.
“When I was 16-years-old I was in a girl’s home. I spent my 16th birthday there. I was just thinking about it, about how no one celebrated my birth,” McKinley said.
McKinley is a child sex trafficking survivor.
“I was trafficked by a family member at a very young age in elementary school,” McKinley said.
She didn’t want to name which member of her family sold her for sex.
“I would be in the car taken to what seemed like an auto parts store. That’s where they would meet,” McKinley said.
Then, the buyer would utter the coded message: She’s beautiful.