71ºF

Stronger Houston: Efforts underway to end human trafficking

HOUSTON – January is human trafficking prevention month. There were 1,080 reported cases of human trafficking connected to Texas in 2019, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

What is human trafficking?

“Human trafficking is when someone through force, fraud or coercion is made to engage in commercial sex trade or labor services,” said Commander Kristine Anthony-Miller of the Houston Police Department’s VICE Division.

What is Houston police doing about it?

HPD tries to be both proactive and reactive in its response, Anthony-Miller said. Officers respond to tips from places like the national hotline and also go into the community to target sex buyers and identify possible victims.

“Most trafficking occurs to US citizens and they can be your next-door neighbors,” Anthony-Miller said.

What are other organizations doing?

The Houston nonprofit Elijah Rising is one of several local groups working to help victims.

“What we’re really known for is going to the places where men and women are being exploited through sex trafficking, that could be on the street, in hotels, or a number of different places, getting them the resources and real ways to get out of that situation,” said Mobilization Director Sam Hernandez.

Hernandez said Elijah Rising offers a safe house for women to recover, as well as a way to get them to work experience making home goods.

“I think we want people to know that this is an issue that everyone can get involved in fighting,” Hernandez said.

One woman’s story

“It was a part of my life. I didn’t know that anything was different,” said Susan, who asked us not to share her last name or show her face.

As a child, she said she was a victim of sex trafficking by her own father and her mother knew about it.

“The only reason it ended is that I accidentally said something to a family member and that brought up a bunch of red flags,” she said.

We met her through the organization United Against Human Trafficking. Susan now considers herself a survivor and plans to volunteer with that group.

“I decided it was time to take this horrible thing that happened and use it for some positive and be able to help other kids,” she said.

More information:

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or humantraffickinghotline.org/

Elijah Rising: www.elijahrising.org/

United Against Human Trafficking: uaht.org/