I don’t believe the issue of human trafficking gets enough attention in the news. So, I decided to sit down Dr. Raymond Beman of The HUGS Foundation for more information. I quickly learned this issue is not only terrifying, but growing.
Houston has surpassed Atlanta as the leader in human trafficking because Houston’s advancements in technology have made it easier for traffickers to obtain ID cards and passports that go unnoticed by even our most seasoned law enforcement officers.
The statistics for trafficking in Texas are staggering. Of approximately 313,000 people being trafficked for sex and labor, 234,000 of those are solely used for sex and of those 234,000, roughly 79,000 of them are between the ages of three and 17 years old. The sought after age of victims; 13.
Human trafficking is becoming the business of choice for gangs, surpassing drug trafficking because transporting people is easier than transporting drugs. Trafficking victims are even special ordered with buyers asking for specifics such as age, eye color, height, or hair color. According to Dr. Beman, victims are often overlooked because people assume their trafficker is a grandparent or other relative.
Unfortunately, once someone falls victim to human trafficking, there isn’t much one can do to get them back. Dr. Beman said owners brand their victims with tattoos and move them an average of four times the first month. The life span of a victim is seven years after abduction and less than one percent of victims are ever recovered; most of them die from drug abuse. Many victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome and return to their abusers who have established themselves as the victims’ only resource for food, water, shelter, and clothing.
The best course of action is prevention. Dr. Beman suggests encouraging children to learn how to be aware of their surroundings by asking them to perform simple tasks such as describing cars or people they see on their way to or from school or bus stops. He also suggests encouraging children not to make negative posts on social media as traffickers often use these as openings to empathize and create bonds with their potential targets. Because the trafficker’s strategy often includes alienating victims from their families, Dr. Beman also suggests parents plant a seed of hope and directly tell their children they are loved and valued, even during trying times.
For more information, or to support, please visit; The HUGS Foundation.