Human Trafficking

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Human trafficking is among the most lucrative criminal enterprises in existence today. Despite what the term “trafficking” might imply, movement of the victim is not necessary. A person can be trafficked out of his or her own home. In essence, trafficking is the commoditization of persons—the buying and selling of individuals for labor or commercial sex. If an adult is made to provide labor or sexual services through force fraud or coercion, that person has been trafficked. If a minor engages in a commercial sex act, that minor has been a victim of trafficking. A commercial sex act involves the exchange of anything of value, such as money, drugs, food, or property.

Thousands of foreign nationals are trafficked within the United States every year, but this heinous crime also harms our country’s own children. Most youth at risk for sexual exploitation are runaways or “throwaway” youth who have left home due to experiencing neglect or abuse in their homes. It is estimated that 1 out of every 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Traffickers and pimps prey upon the vulnerabilities of these youth. They provide them with food and shelter, as well as attention and affection, in an attempt to fill the voids the prompted the youth to run in the first place. In exchange, the children must perform commercial sex acts, and may be beaten and abused if they refuse.

Texas has strong anti-trafficking laws that law enforcement can use to go after perpetrators; however, equally strong protections and services for trafficking victims are lacking. Children who have been exploited need to be treated as victims, not criminals. In 2010, the Texas Supreme Court made a landmark decision, In the Matter of B.W., which addressed the issue of charging children with the offense of prostitution. In recognizing that children cannot legally consent to sex, the Court held that children under the age of 14 cannot be charged with prostitution. CHILDREN AT RISK proudly submitted an amicus brief on behalf of B.W. and celebrated the case as a major win for child trafficking victims; however, children between the ages of 14 and 18 can still be prosecuted for prostitution. Additionally, there is uncertainty concerning the proper protective response for these victims.

DEMAND: CEASE HOUSTON & CEASE NORTH TEXAS

Human trafficking is an illicit market that relies on basic economic principles of supply and demand. Until we end the demand for sex and labor trafficking, there will be those who supply minor victims. CHILDREN AT RISK is working hard to change the culture of Texas regarding commercial sex. As a state and a people we must end the “boys will be boys” attitude towards commercial sexual exploitation and treat the purchasers of commercial sex as the predators they are. Demand fuels the problem and puts tax-free money in the pockets of pimps and traffickers. If there were no buyers, there would be no business.

The CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) Network is a collaboration of pioneering cities committed to innovating, testing, and sharing strategies to deter people from buying sex. CHILDREN AT RISK coordinates CEASE Network teams in Houston and North Texas to create and execute strategies for reducing demand. These teams take a holistic approach and rely on the expertise and collaboration of survivors, law enforcement, service providers, researchers, public officials, corporate leaders, philanthropists, and others to address demand.

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PARTNERS IN PREVENTION: PUTTING HUMAN TRAFFICKERS OUT OF BUSINESS

CHILDREN AT RISK is proud to have worked beside lawmakers, the Secretary of State, and other allies to help launch a voluntary Human Trafficking Prevention Business Partnership Program. Corporations and private entities joining this program have a unique opportunity to help strengthen community awareness about human trafficking, reduce their exposure to liability, and improve their reputation for displaying corporate social responsibility. Companies which implement a zero tolerance policy with respect to human trafficking may submit an application to the Secretary of State and receive official state recognition.

In order to join the partnership, a business must adopt a “zero tolerance policy” and engage in certain activities. Major requirements include:

•Assess and examine supply lines and facilities for signs of human trafficking and take remedial steps;
•Prohibit the use of business funds for activities related to the commercial sex industry;
•Implement awareness training for all employees;
•Establish a policy and point of contact for employees to report possible violations without fear of retaliation; and
•Provide information to employees about resources to assist victims of human trafficking.

Applications are available through the Secretary of State.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING RESOURCE DATABASE

The Human Trafficking Resource Database provides a directory of anti-trafficking resources across the state of Texas. The database was developed to enable the sharing of information between social service providers, law enforcement agencies, researchers, and other advocates and stakeholders. The database contains information available to the public, as well as information accessible only to members who have joined the database, including details on each organization’s anti-trafficking efforts and opportunities for partnership. Promising Practices distinguish organizations and help connect users with needed resources.

Learn more about our Center to End the Trafficking & Exploitation of Children.

For more information on the state of human trafficking in Texas, explore our Human Trafficking Resources.

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