Every time Toni McKinley tells her story, she hopes she's saving a life.
McKinley spent her childhood as a sex trafficking victim. She ran away from home and was picked up by a pimp at the age of 15. McKinley has turned her life around. She's a survivor and a counselor. It's stories like hers that prompted the ride-sharing company Uber to help those who may find themselves in a similar situation.
"Seeing Uber really take a stand and train their employees and the people who drive for them on how to spot human trafficking is going to help save lives," McKinley said.
When Uber's 750,000 active drivers in the U.S. log on to the app, they will be presented with information such as how to spot victims of trafficking and best practices for reporting tips to the police and anti-trafficking support groups.
Those tips can include spotting clothing or behavior that seems inappropriate for the age; a younger rider displaying fearful emotions in the company of a fellow adult and ride requests that stop at multiple hotels for short durations. KVUE spoke with Uber's Public Affairs Director Trevor Theunissen.
"I think it's important that all these drivers know that it can happen in your own back yard. It doesn't happen only in big cities -- it happens all across the country and in different ways," Theunissen said.
For McKinley she'll continue to do her part in ending human trafficking in Texas. She hopes other companies will get on board with her message.
"I just feel really blessed to take a horrible situation and turn around and use it for good. You know to help bring them the healing that they need so that they can be in a position like me one day and not let this define them," McKinley said.
Uber plans to expand the service to other countries soon.