Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that has grown into a $150 billion industry worldwide. Although it is a global epidemic, the Department of State Trafficking in Persons reports that the United States is a leading “source, transit and destination country for men, women and children – both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals – subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and sex trafficking”.
Texas, along with California and New York, is one of the top three states leading in human trafficking activity. Its location, economy, and large immigrant community make Texas a hub for human trafficking. Unfortunately, this suggests that labor trafficking is the state’s main concern and fails to shed light on the growing sex trafficking problem. According to Arrow’s Freedom Place, a program that helps child sex trafficking survivors, Houston has approximately 6000 runaway minors, making it the largest population of youths at risk. Runaways include minors with a history of experiencing abuse, those who’ve been in foster care, those rejected by families because they identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual, and those that are homeless.
Human Trafficking Search (2013) reports that “an estimated 1 in 3 runaways are lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of running away from home. Almost 30% of calls to report domestic trafficking at the National Human Trafficking Hotline originate in Texas.
According to a study by Cheryl Butler in the Akron Law Review, about 22% of human trafficking victims travel through Texas.
From January to June 2018, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 847 calls and 455 human trafficking cases in Texas.
A 2016 study conducted by the University of Texas Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault found that 313,000 individuals in Texas were victims of human trafficking, including 79,000 minors who were victims of sexual exploitation.
While this is a global epidemic, the problem is deeply rooted in our own backyard.
How is United For Human Dignity Helping?
United For Human Dignity (UFHD) gives sex trafficking survivors the financial support they need to complete their education and create new opportunities for their future.
Survivors face countless challenges when trying to reenter society and obtain sustainable employment. Lack of education, insufficient resources, and for some, an undeserving prostitution record are obstacles that are difficult to overcome. They can lead to feelings of despair and low self-worth.
United For Human Dignity believes that everyone deserves to have a chance to improve their quality of life and is dedicated to helping sex trafficking survivors on their journey to reenter society. For survivors who would like to pursue a college degree or vocational training, United For Human Dignity provides sponsorships that help cover educational expenses and basic living needs. Mentorship and study groups are also available to give survivors ongoing support.
UFHD is part of Houston Rescue & Restore Coalition, a group of organizations envisioning a collective end to human trafficking in Greater Houston through strategic anti-human trafficking efforts. Supported by the city of Houston, UFHD was honored to participate in the Mayoral Proclamation declaring January Human Trafficking Awareness Month.