Revised and adapted by
Carla Bass- City Editor
Human trafficking is not something we tend to think about, nor can we even fathomed it and we also think – not in my backyard. Yes, we see movies about it, but it typically is depicted as young women who have been brought from another country, or have been U.S. runaways rounded up from bus or train stations who have arrived at a destination and are homeless. Another lure is for young women and men who fall for “modeling job” advertisements. However, the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault has determined that Texas, is one of the largest states in the country serving as a hub for human trafficking in the U.S.
Approximately 313,000 people in Texas have been forced into prostitution or some other sort of work. Roughly 234,00 of those people work in conditions of involuntary servitude or debt bondage, while the other 79,000 are children or young adults who are pushed into prostitution through force or some form of deception.
Human traffickers typically gear up to recruit at large events. This year Houston was prepared with additional law enforcement during the Super Bowl to try and reduce sex or trafficking. However, these predators are moving into small town America and targeting rural areas. They are drawn to small towns because they feel they won’t get caught. Areas that have a lot of agricultural farming and small police forces are breeding grounds for traffickers. They are in and out very quickly and their victims are shipped off many times to foreign countries.
Children and young adults who are homeless or in the foster care system are also at a high risk of becoming involved in sex trafficking.
The study from the Institute also determined that the largest number of victims of labor trafficking are found in construction, cleaning services and restaurant kitchen work. In May 2017 there were approximately 16,518 kids in the foster care system in Texas between the ages of 0 to 17 years. In Northeast Texas – Region 004 there were 2,028 and 350 of those were from the Counties of Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Cass, Morris, Panola, Bowie and Upshur.
According to Love 146, an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention, human trafficking in less populated areas has unique characteristics. Why are rural communities so vulnerable? It’s the fact that far apart doesn’t equal safer.
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