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Some viral human trafficking posts do more harm than good

HOUSTON – Houston-area advocates working to end human trafficking want to make sure people know how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to a series of viral social media posts on the topic.

In some cases, the claims are unverified or have been outright refuted by local law enforcement.

Here’s a closer look.

The posts

A recent post about a woman allegedly being nearly abducted by two other women at a gas station near 59 and Highway 6 claimed Sugar Land police said the women involved were sex traffickers. In a post on their Facebook page, Sugar Land police denied the details of that post saying while a woman did report suspicious activity they never made the link to sex trafficking and had no other reports of sex trafficking in the area.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office also used its Facebook page to call reports of zip ties being used to mark the cars of potential victims for human trafficking in Conroe a hoax.

“I think it raises awareness, so that’s a good thing, however it seems that many of these posts that are going viral are not necessarily helping raise the right type of awareness,” said Adam Chaney of Elijah Rising, a Houston non-profit dedicated to ending sex trafficking.

The reality

Chaney said the posts perpetuate a Hollywood-version of how human trafficking occurs.

"Most of the individuals that are being trafficked were not abducted they weren’t kidnapped in a parking lot somewhere,” Chaney said.

The majority of the women Elijah Rising sees, their trafficking situation came as a result of a long indoctrination process and they had some vulnerability that was exploited by traffickers or people working for traffickers," Chaney said.

The viral posts also typically include a statistic about Houston being the number one hub in the United States for human trafficking.

“I think where that comes from is Houston has consistently ranked number one in trafficking calls to the National Trafficking Tip Hotline. People are confusing the number of calls to the tip line with us being the hub,” says Minal Patel Davis, who serves as special advisor on human trafficking for the City of Houston. “I can tell you New York says they’re a hub, San Francisco says they’re the hub, Atlanta says they’re the hub.”

Patel Davis says the actual prevalence of human trafficking in Houston has never been studied.

Some advocates working to stop human trafficking warn against dismissing all of the viral posts.

In a statement to KPRC 2, Kelly Litvak, a Katy mother whose daughter was trafficked as a teenager and founder of ChildProof America wrote:

“I believe some law enforcement agencies want to control the narrative in order to present a sense of security that isn’t there. That is dangerous for citizens. This is certainly very few but it does exist.”

Education and help

The city of Houston has a website dedicated to its work to stop human trafficking that includes fact-based social media posts you can share.

Learn more about Elijah Rising at ElijahRising.org.

If you or someone you know is being trafficked, call the National Trafficking Tipline at 888-373-7888.