Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves defines it as “a relationship in which one person is controlled by violence through violence, the threat of violence, or psychological coercion, has lost free will and free movement, is exploited economically, and paid nothing beyond subsistence.”
Who Can Be Trafficked
Adults as well as children can become victims of trafficking. Traffickers enslave both males and females. People can be trafficked in their own country or they can be trafficked internationally as well.
The Major Types of Trafficking
Under Texas law we divide trafficking into four types:
- Trafficking of adults for forced labor, for instance in agriculture, food service, factory work or sales;
- Trafficking of adults for sex, in strip clubs, brothels, massage parlors, street or internet prostitution;
- Trafficking of children under the age of 18 for forced labor; and
- Trafficking of children under the age of 18 for sex. An individual can be trafficked into any industry or type of work. Legally, someone is trafficked if force, fraud or coercion is applied to make the trafficked person work or if a child under the age of 18 is trafficked for sex by any means, regardless of whether the trafficker has to use force, fraud or coercion.
Children Have Special Protections
A child under the age of 18 is a victim of sex trafficking if they are being prostituted by someone other than themselves, regardless of whether the child complied with the trafficker’s demands or actively resisted. Sex trafficking of children can be completed by any means and does not require the use of force fraud or coercion. Some of the more common methods of recruitment of children include:
- a promise of romance, love, or acceptance,
- offers of cash, luxury items, a place to stay, independence or a glamorous lifestyle,
- the persuasion of a peer who is already involved,
- meeting the immediate need of a child for food, clothing, shelter, or love
- taking advantage of a vulnerability or a desperate situation
- flattery, lies, manipulation, deception
- exploiting an existing position of power
- making an offer that is too good to be true
- establishing relationship with false or tenuous connections
Who Are the Traffickers and Who Are the Buyers of Trafficked People
There is no one particular look to a trafficker. Traffickers are people who are willing to treat other people like objects or commodities that they can buy, sell or exploit for their own benefit. They can be:
- family, relatives
- international third party recruiters
- unscrupulous employers
- organized crime syndicates, cartels or gangs
- strip club owners/managers
- opportunistic criminals
- intimate partners
- neighbors and friends
- sex buyers who pay for children under the age of 18 or adults who are being forced to prostitute
When it comes to children and trafficking for sex, trafficking is Texas citizens selling Texas children for sex to other Texas citizens. We are the buyers and the sellers and our children are the victims.
Isn’t Trafficking About Immigration and People Who Come Across the Border Illegally?
No. Trafficking is a crime separate and distinct from smuggling. You can be an American citizen trafficked by another American citizen inside the territorial borders of the United States. Smuggling, on the other hand, requires the illegal crossing of an international border. In the crime of smuggling, one person pays another to bring them across an international border illegally. Both are committing a crime against the nation they are trying to enter but there is nothing involuntary about the exchange. The crime of smuggling can become the crime of trafficking if the smuggled person is then placed in debt bondage or made to labor for another through force, fraud or coercion, including threats to turn the person over to immigration authorities. Trafficking is a crime against a person. Under Texas law you don’t have to be moved to be trafficked. You can be trafficked in your own home. For instance, a mother who brings men to her home to have sex with her underage child is trafficking that child without ever moving her. In the crime of trafficking, only the trafficker is committing a crime even if the trafficked person is being made to engage in a criminal activity like prostitution because either the trafficked person is being forced, defrauded or coerced or because the trafficked person is under the age of 18 and being made a victim of a sexual offense.
Warning Signs That a Person is Being Trafficked
Potential red flags for children include:
- changes in their school attendance habits, appearance, socio-economics, friend groups, interests, school activities, vocabulary, demeanor, attitude and sexual behavior
- luxury items like manicures, designer clothing, purses, etc. without an explainable source of income
- getting into trouble in the company of older teens or adults
- sexually provocative clothing
- tattoos or branding
- hotel key cards
- refillable gift cards
- multiple phone or social media accounts
- lying about the existence of those accounts or refusing parent access to those accounts
- sexually provocative pictures on the phone or online accounts
- unexplained injuries: bruising, swelling, redness, cigarette burns
- claim of an older boyfriend/girlfriend
- lack of I.D.
- multiple runaways in a short period of time
Potential red flags for adults include:
- third-party control of schedule and social interaction
- isolation from community, family or friends
- evidence of violence: bruising, swelling, scarring
- tattoos or branding
- sexually provocative clothing that is inappropriate for the situation or weather
- frequent movement/erratic schedule
- inability to speak English
- identification documents in the hands of a third party
- lack of knowledge about the community
- malnutrition, dehydration, exhaustion
- dizziness, headaches, memory loss from traumatic brain injury
- untreated chronic disease, dental or visual problems
- chronic back pain, muscle strains, cardio vascular and respiratory issues related to exposure to chemicals, serious industrial injury
What to Do When You Believe That Someone May Be a Victim of Trafficking
Report it. It is better to make the call and be wrong than leave someone enslaved a moment longer.
- If the situation is an emergency or you believe someone is in immediate danger, call 911 and alert the authorities. Tell them you think it may be human trafficking or slavery so that it can be routed to the proper investigators. Follow that call with a call to the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or report online at Report@PolarisProject.org.
- Include actionable information, names, descriptions of what you saw, heard, when and where. If vehicles are involved try to include license plate numbers or makes, models and colors.
- Call as soon as possible after you make the observations. The fresher the information, the more likely law enforcement can take action.
- Don’t intervene yourself. Traffickers can be dangerous. Allow law enforcement to respond.
What To Do If You’re Unsure
If you can safely obtain more information, do so. Talk with the individual in a private setting that is non-threatening if you have the type of relationship that allows you to have that conversation comfortably. If you have a concern that such a conversation would put you or that person in danger, then make the call to report instead.
- Call the National Hotline. 1-888-373-7888 or text “Help” or “Info” to 233733. The hotline is staffed 24/7 with people trained in recognizing and identifying trafficking. They can help you make sense of the information that you have and recommend next steps.
- Call law enforcement or your local district attorney’s office through a non-emergency number and ask to speak to someone who works on trafficking cases. Many of the larger jurisdictions have specialized law enforcement and assistant district attorneys who can talk through the situation with you.
- Call the Department of Public Safety. They have victim advocates who specialize in human trafficking stationed across the state. Department of Public Safety Victim Service Counselors
- Call Child Protective Services if a child is involved. Tell them you have concerns for trafficking during your intake call or online report. 1-800-252-5400. Texas Abuse Hotline Login
- Call the Office of the Attorney General, Human Trafficking Prosecutor at 512-463-1646 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office of the Attorney General has law enforcement officers specifically trained to combat and investigate human trafficking and has conducted sting and rescue operations across the state.
Learn More About Human Trafficking