Patricia Hunt-Holmes, author of Searching for Pilar, spent 35 years as a finance lawyer in Houston and was looking for ways to stay active after her retirement.
Much to her surprise, one event led to another, and she wound up publishing the fiction novel about sex trafficking, Searching for Pilar, on April 10, 2018. The story involves Houstonians of all stations helping a young stranger from Mexico rescue his sister from the life of a sex slave in Houston’s glitzy Galleria area men’s clubs and barrio cantinas.
Hunt-Holmes talked about her experience part of the Community Book Talks Lecture Series at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center Thursday, Jan. 30.
“I specialized in financing non-profit hospitals, YMCAs, United Ways, things like that,” Hunt-Holmes said. “It was a very satisfying career. But when I retired, there were a couple of thing that I wanted to do. One of them was I wanted to give back in a way I hadn’t had the time to do before when I was working. Before, I gave money because I didn’t have time to volunteer.”
Hunt-Holmes said she wanted to do something hands-on and one of neighbors was a Methodist minister approached her about helping to start a non-profit organization in Houston. The organization was a branch of Justice for Our Neighbors. She went to her first meeting and everyone else was a male litigator. They all said they wanted to do something during the meeting. She told them she only had an hour and the meeting was going to have an agenda. That led to her becoming chair of the group and part of her responsibility was networking with other organization.
“I had a friend who was a lawyer,” Hunt-Holmes said. “She was from Jamaica. She was a naturalized citizen. And I was telling her about what I was doing. She said, ‘Well, you need to go out to Freedom Place.’ Freedom Place was the first refuge for girls rescued from sex trafficking in Houston.”
Hunt-Holmes said it was hard to find as it was not on a map or GPS.
“When I was there, I was shocked by what I saw,” she said. “There were all these beautiful young girls between 12 and 18 and I think they were 18 of them who looked just like my daughters. They looked like normal American teenagers, but they had been living lives that were just hell as sex slaves having to have sex with men they didn’t know, maybe three a night. They were trying to recover in that environment.”
Hunt-Holmes said the first time heard about sex trafficking was in 2013, so she started looking into it and only found survivor’s accounts. One thing led to another and she started taking writing classes in a workshop.
Hunt-Holmes recalled writing short story about woman who went to a job interview and was kidnapped into being a sex slaves. She kept writing about it after the workshop and, halfway through, realized she was writing a book, which was eventually published.