People on social media are using the hashtag #SheWas16 to show support and raise awareness for alleged sex trafficking victim Zephi Trevino, who is being charged with capital murder in connection to the death of a Texas man in 2020.
Zephaniah Trevino, known as “Zephi” to her friends and family, was just 16 years old when her alleged sex trafficker shot a man with whom she was being forced to perform sex acts. In a stunning hearing today, a judge ruled that the teen will be tried as an adult for a murder she didn’t commit.
At the time the shooting took place, Zephi was caught in a frightening cycle of abuse, with her alleged trafficker using drugs, coercion, emotional manipulation, and physical threats against her and her family to keep her under his control. While she was being held at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice facility, Zephi’s family moved to a new home out of fear for their safety.
Since being arrested for the crimes of her trafficker, Zephi has been further victimized by the criminal justice system. At each point when she attempted to make outcries about being trafficked by Philip Baldenegro, her pleas for help went unaddressed and unacknowledged. Her parents have been determined to fight for Zephi, aided by advocates and activists including Kim Kardashian, Jamie Lee Curtis, Demi Lovato, and Jason Flom.
In December 2020, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot faced calls for his recusal from the case after he shared a social media post from David Finn, the attorney of the man who is accused of abusing Zephi and who has admitted to pulling the trigger the night of the murder. The post outlined details of the case — details that Zephi’s attorneys, Justin Moore and Ashkan Mehryari, are prohibited from discussing due to juvenile confidentiality laws in Texas. In addition, Finn has gone on record about the great friendship he enjoys with Creuzot. This obvious bias against the young woman has heightened pressure for Creuzot to remove himself from Zephi’s case.
“The system in Dallas County is set up to destroy the lives of child sex trafficking victims,” said Moore. “It seeks to force victims into submission and corner them into taking responsibility for the crimes of their abusers. Fighting against such a system takes an incredible amount of courage and grit. It’s unfortunate that a young girl is being asked to display this.”
Trevino could face life in prison if she is convicted of these capital murder charges.