About Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with an estimated 40.3 million victims worldwide. Simply put, human trafficking is any time a person is forced, tricked, or manipulated into providing labor or sexual service for someone else’s financial gain. Or, anytime a child is involved in a commercial sex act, whether or not there is someone directly forcing them to do so.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (2000) defines severe human trafficking as --
(8) SEVERE FORMS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS. – The term “severe forms of trafficking in persons” means –
(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, soliciting or advertising of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
(9) SEX TRAFFICKING.- The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.
Does it happen here?
It’s common to think of a crime happening on the other side of the world when we hear “human trafficking.” However, human trafficking, both through labor and sex trafficking, is happening right here in the United States, even in the Waco community. Our community is at a special risk because of our location in what’s called the “Texas Triangle.” Major interstates cross through Texas, connecting DFW, Houston, and San Antonio to the rest of the country. Because of this, the Texas Triangle is considered one of the most heavily trafficked regions in the United States. And Waco is right in the middle.
What does human trafficking look like in Waco?
Human trafficking usually happens under the radar, so it can be hard to get a complete picture of what this crime looks like. However, there are some common themes surrounding trafficking observed throughout the United States and in Texas.
1) Traffickers look for vulnerabilities as they target victims. In labor trafficking, common vulnerabilities include being from another country, documentation status, lack of economic opportunity, and low levels of formal education. In sex trafficking, common vulnerabilities include homelessness, history of abuse, involvement in the commercial sex industry, substance abuse, and more. For child sex trafficking, other common vulnerabilities include low self-esteem, familial strife, running away, involvement in child welfare and more. Although these are common themes, anyone can be a victim.
2) Many victims don’t realize they are human trafficking victims. Traffickers are often expert manipulators and may lead their victims down a path of exploitation, filled with lies, false promises, and coercion. This makes it very difficult for victims to reach out for help, either from fear, false beliefs, or lack of awareness. Victims of human trafficking are in our schools, our neighborhoods, our agriculture, our communities.
3) Trafficking is a supply and demand business. Because there is a demand for cheap labor and a demand for commercial sex, human trafficking continues to exist. With sex trafficking, engagement in the commercial sex industry, whether in viewing pornography or purchasing sex, is creating profit for traffickers that drives demand. As we work to prevent trafficking and strengthen the protective factors of our communities, we also have to educate and fight the demand.