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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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The Road to Progress: Steps to Eliminating Child Trafficking
Children at Risk

March, 2012

The Road to Progress: Steps to Eliminating Child Trafficking

Human trafficking is a global epidemic and Texas is a major hub for it in the US. It is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second only to drug dealing and tied with arms dealing. Human trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, providing or obtaining of a person by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of a commercial sex act or labor services. While a common myth is that trafficking is primarily an international problem – in reality it is an even greater issue here in America. Between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals are trafficked into the U.S. each year, and within our borders, between 150,000-300,000 of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents fall victim. Statistics show that 1 in 3 of these American children will be approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of leaving home; the average age of entry into child trafficking is between 12 and 14 years of age.

The vast majority of these children have experienced some form of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse in the home which prompted them to run away. While some traffickers instill fear in their victims in order to keep them from leaving, many traffickers brainwash their prey into feeling love by buying them clothes, taking them to get their hair done, or providing them a place to sleep in exchange for the child’s sexual servitude through prostitution. This problem causes a lack of self-identification by the victims as human trafficking victims.

In 2003, Texas was the second state in the U.S. to pass anti-trafficking legislation. Greater awareness and increased support by the Legislature has resulted in several key pieces of anti-trafficking legislation to be passed in subsequent legislative sessions which, among other accomplishments, established the statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force in the Office of the Attorney General, mandated law enforcement training on human trafficking, and enhanced criminal penalties against traffickers/pimps and “Johns” (the customers). In December 2011, Shared Hope International released their 2011 Protected Innocence Initiative, which graded each of the 50 states based upon an examination of their anti-trafficking policies. Texas was awarded the highest grade nationwide.

Although Texas is leading the nation in enacting anti-trafficking laws, there is still much more work to be done. Despite the growing awareness about child trafficking in the State of Texas, resources to provide services for these victims are limited. Law enforcement is increasingly beginning to recognize child prostitutes as victims of human trafficking, but unfortunately have few alternative placement options for these victims other than the juvenile justice system. Thus, in order to keep these victims off the streets, they are subjected to re-victimization through criminalization and incarceration in juvenile detention facilities. With just over 100 beds available in safe houses nationally for domestic minor sex trafficking victims, this problem is not exclusive to the State of Texas alone. Therefore, although substantial progress has been made, the child trafficking crisis must be made a priority of state and federal legislatures, advocacy groups, and the public across the nation.

To end human trafficking we need to:
• Raise awareness about human trafficking and engage many facets of our society to eradicate this widespread issue. As with the domestic violence movement decades ago, education increases the progression of the movement to involve the criminal justice system, the health care system and eventually societal perception of the issue.
• Comprehensive legislation is necessary to combat human trafficking and provide the short-term emergency services and long-term assistance for victims.
• Increase safe houses for victims because the needs of victims of human trafficking are complex and require comprehensive services and treatment. The juvenile justice system and existing domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters are ill-equipped to handle the specific needs of this population, and access to existing services is often prohibited by eligibility requirements.
• End demand for commercial sex. Criminal prosecution of buyers of commercial sex must be enforced, and greater education of buyers about human trafficking is needed. How you can help end child trafficking!
• Spread the word – and ask your friends and colleagues to do the same! Additional information and resources are available here.
• Sign up for e-advocacy updates at http://childrenatrisk.org/get-involved/email-alerts so that during the legislative session you will receive timely e-alerts when an important piece of human trafficking legislation is being considered and needs your support.
• CHILDREN AT RISK recently launched our 12 for 12 Campaign in response to the shocking fact that the average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 12 years old. Please join us in committing $12 to combat domestic child trafficking.

About CHILDREN AT RISK

CHILDREN AT RISK is a nonprofit organization leading the way to improving the quality of life for Texas children through research, collaboration, advocacy and legal services. CHILDREN AT RISK educates the community and public officials based on its groundbreaking research, Growing Up in Houston, which tracks children’s health, safety, education, and economic conditions. By understanding children’s needs and speaking out on their behalf, CHILDREN AT RISK drives change.

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