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Shining light on dark issue, human trafficking in Texas



Shining light on dark issue, human trafficking in Texas

By Abigail Allen

Editor & Publisher

       Human trafficking, particularly that of children, is a growing issue throughout Texas.


       That was the message Kathy Spicer shared with the Lake Ray Roberts Rotary Club on Tuesday at Chad Major’s invitation.


       “I was invited to a town hall as an elected official in Denton County,” Major said. “We had a town hall meeting on human trafficking, child trafficking, and I’ve got four pages of notes I took that day. … The whole point of that session was to educate communities on what’s going on.”


       Spicer, who has worked with Shared Hope International in Washington state and in Texas, shared some of the statistics about child trafficking and the biggest danger areas that can lead victims to being swept up into that world.



       “I believe it is our generation’s form of modern-day slavery,” Spicer said. “It’s one of those crimes that they refer to as often hidden in plain sight, and it affects roughly 50 million people around the globe.”


       That criminal industry generates more than $150 billion annually, Spicer shared from the resources available on sharedhope.org.


       Spicer worked on some myth busting during her presentation.


       “There are people that still think sex trafficking only happens overseas, that it only happens in person or they’re usually people you don’t know,” she said. “The evidence just really does not support that.”


       She emphasized that social media has amplified the problem.


       “It’s very efficient; it’s very effective,” Spicer said. “It’s a good way to lure in young, vulnerable teens or young preteens, and it’s quickly becoming the most dangerous way to get to our children.”


       Family members can pose a danger, as well, Spicer said.


Shining light on dark issue, human trafficking in Texas

       “The familial one is probably the saddest to me because it’s a generation of survivors that are repeating the sexual abuse through their kids and selling them for sex,” she said.


       She shared an experience her sister, who was a teacher, had when she tried to report concerns about a young boy she taught who she feared was a victim of familial trafficking.


       “That poor little child ended up dying; he got caught up into God knows what,” she said. “That was kind of an eye opener for me, and it really was a kid down the street.”


       Traffickers online or who are known in person by their victims often ingratiate themselves to the kids, connecting with them while driving the victim to away from their support network, Spicer said.


       “Our kids in these vulnerable situations really need to know they’re a target,” she added.


Shining light on dark issue, human trafficking in Texas

       Although the typical victim is in the 12-15 year old range, that is not the only group affected.


       “But of course, there’s younger and older cases as well,” she said.


       Often, Spicer said, people imagine the victims to be young girls, but that isn’t the full pool of children affected.


       She shared some statistics, which show “82% of girls and 91% of boys between 12 and 17 have received online solicitations,” and that predators are actively pursuing the kids.


       “And it’s open season on our boys,” she added. “… Any child can be targeted.”


       Spicer also mentioned that proximity to major roadways increases the risk of a child being abducted and introduced into the human trafficking world, with traffickers often moving them far from their home area to decrease the chance they will be found.


       One of the goals of Shared Hope is to increase the number of safe harbor states for trafficking victims so they are not criminalized for their actions while under duress, Spicer said.



       “‘In Texas, a 16-year-old trafficking victim awaited a buyer in a secluded room where she waited for her traffickers to rob and kill the man who came to exploit her,’” Spicer read. “‘The young girl was arrested for capital murder and received a 12-year sentence.’ She was just in the room.”


       Spicer also shared some of the warning signs of sex trafficking, which can be found at sharedhope.org/resources.


       After Spicer’s presentation, Major mentioned that the presenter at the town hall explained that a trafficker doesn’t look the way you would expect.


       “You will not recognize them,” he said. “They’re clergy, they’re teachers, they’re engineers. … They look normal.”


Shining light on dark issue, human trafficking in Texas

       Rotarian Mike Norvet asked whether there are stats regarding the effectiveness of helping victims rebuild their lives once they escape that environment, which Spicer said she did not have exact figures on but which can be a difficult process for several factors.


       “It would seem to me that that’s why prevention is such an essential part of this,” Norvet said. “Because I can’t imagine the success rate, once you’ve been in that system, to lead a normal life must be difficult.”


       More resources and information about preventing and identifying human trafficking are available at sharedhope.org.

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