An old adage goes that everything is bigger in Texas. While this often refers to state pride, the size of a steak, and hair, many do not realize that this also includes the rate of human trafficking. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, human trafficking is “the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud, or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.” Three main factors conduce to trafficking in Texas which includes proximity, demographics, and a large migrant work force. With as many as one in four victims passing through Texas, this inexorable issue is closer to home than imagined. While there may not be one defined solution to end human trafficking, community efforts are required in order to raise awareness and support trafficking prevention, prosecution, and victim protection.
There are several key factors contributing to human trafficking in Texas. Texas is crossed by the I-10 ...view middle of the document...
Victims of human trafficking can be women, men, children, foreign nationals, or U.S. citizens. There is not a consistent profile of a trafficked victim, but some form of vulnerability seems to be a common factor across the board. Runaway or “throwaway” youth are considered particularly vulnerable. In Texas, Houston, Dallas, and Austin have high populations of these youth, with approximately 6,000 runaways each annually. According to National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children, it is estimated that within 48 hours of leaving home, one out of three runaways will be lured into trafficking. Victims typically do not immediately seek help or self-identify as victims for several reasons, including lack of trust, self-blame, or fear instilled in them by threats from their traffickers.
There are several approaches to combating human trafficking. These include prevention, protection, and prosecution. Prevention methods include educating the general public, authorities, and vulnerable populations about the tactics traffickers use to coerce victims, how to identify the victims, and the risks of trafficking. In order to protect and assist victims, social and legal services are necessary. These include safe houses and legal representation in the courtroom to assert victim rights. Fighting to abolish human trafficking should not only be seen as a responsibility of authorities. The general public can assist in the fight by spreading awareness, becoming involved with anti-trafficking organizations, and being responsible for their consumer choices.
Human trafficking is an escalating concern for our city, state, and nation. It is considered the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, with the most vulnerable being runaway or homeless youth. A nation that is unaware of the problems associated with human trafficking or are disengaged from solutions contributes to the ongoing abuse to the victims. Combating human trafficking requires participation from all members of the community by spreading awareness and being active in the fight.