In the 1990s, I was first exposed to the world of human trafficking when visiting Bangkok with Compassion International. Next to our five-star hotel for business travelers was Patpong, one of the world’s most popular red-light districts. It is listed in TripAdvisor and on other tourist web sites as a “fun” place to visit. What I saw was not fun. As you walk down the lane, doors open into go-go bars with young, attractive girls dancing and luring passersby inside. You can look at a menu of offerings before entering, too. The patrons were mostly Anglo western business men.
What’s not seen when those doors open are the families of these young, mostly underage girls: impoverished families who let their daughters go off to promises of “secretarial” jobs in the big city. What’s not seen are the abductions from streets in towns not only in Thailand, but across the world, even in suburban USA. What’s not seen are the stolen childhoods from girls and boys that can never be returned to them.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “severe forms of trafficking in
persons” as follows:
- Sex trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; and
- Labor Trafficking: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
As we approach the Super Bowl, hosted in Houston this year, we are bringing awareness to the rampant human trafficking business in our area. While the rise in trafficking during the Super Bowl is not as high as once thought, it nevertheless is a huge problem every day of the year. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of others. It is found during the Super Bowl, but it is also found at motorcycle rallies in South Dakota, in the fields of Florida, in gangs in California, and in brothels in Washington, D.C. (Polaris Project).
Houston is soon the be the third largest city in the United States. About a quarter of all sex trafficking happens in Texas, according to the 2014 Texas Department of Public Safety’s State Intelligence Estimate report findings. That’s because most of the sex trade dealings are done online instead of on the street, and only recently have education efforts helped to unveil the problem in these areas. The Internet facilitates dealings, and affluent counties — such as Fort Bend and other Houston suburbs — are high in sex trafficking. Houston sees this problem more than many other cities in the nation. That’s partly because of the city’s proximity to the I-10 corridor, between El Paso and Houston, which is the country’s most used trafficking path. Human trafficking is happening in our state, neighborhoods and communities. The average age of girls lured into trafficking is 12-14 years old.
The Anti-Trafficking Project at Trinity Episcopal Church is an outreach ministry that partners with Traffick911, an award-winning, Dallas-based, non-profit organization that seeks to free youth from sex trafficking through prevention, identification, and empowerment. Trinity will be hosting an awareness presentation on Sunday, January 29 at 1:00 PM. We will show a short documentary, followed by information from Traffick911 and a Q and A time. A light lunch will be served following the 11:00 AM service, so please call the church office if you’d like to come so we can plan accordingly. If you’re interested in volunteering, there will an orientation on Saturday, January 28. Please contact Sydney Dunlap (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to sign up or for more information.