Category: Human Trafficking

Trafficking — the difference between victims & criminals

Human trafficking web pageThe Dallas Morning News carried an excellent opinion piecein its Feb. 23 edition about children and prostitution. The article, by Malika Saada Saar, expresses a broad national perspective. In Texas, we are actually doing better than reflected in Saar’s article, but we still have lots of work to do.

Saar points out that about 293,000 U.S. children are “at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex, according to a 2011 FBI report on trafficking. Most are girls ages 12 to 14. They often are abducted or lured by pimps and traffickers, beaten into submission and sometimes even branded with the pimp’s name.” She tells of one 15-year-old girl being abducted on her way home from school.

The trafficking of children is a deep tragedy in and of itself, but a secondary tragedy occurs when the justice system treats them like criminals (prostitutes) instead of victims. This secondary problem can be attributed to inadequate laws, uninformed officers, and the lack of places for trafficking victims to be sent for protection.

In Texas, we have made some genuine, bi-partisan progress in changing laws regarding child prostitution, and the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has been a critical advocate in making these changes. In the 2013 session, the legislature made the following changes:

HB 2268 (John Frullo) and SB 1052 ( John Carona) streamlined the investigations of Texas law enforcement officers into aspects of human trafficking taking place on the Internet.

SB 92 (Leticia Van de Putte) created a diversion court program for victims of human trafficking. In particular, the bill helps recognize victims of human trafficking as victims, not criminals, particularly in situations involving allegations of prostitution (many victims are minors and cannot legally consent to sex—this bill treats them accordingly). This addressed a key aspect of Saar’s article.

HB 2725 ( Senfronia Thompson) created parameters to help ensure the confidentiality of human trafficking shelters and their occupants.

Two years earlier, in 2011, the following bills also helped shore up the Texas fight against human trafficking:

HB 2015 (Thompson and Van de Putte) added minor prostitution to the list offenses eligible for “child in need of supervision.” This addressed one of the legal shortcomings cited in Saar’s article.

SB 24 (Van de Putte and Thompson) mandated urgent recommendations from the Attorney General’s 2011 report that added human trafficking to lists of crimes in the penal code, government code, and family code, code of criminal procedure, and civil practice and remedies code. The bill also addresses important victim protections.

HB 289 (Jim Jackson and Jane Nelson)  added human trafficking to the list of activities that cause a common nuisance in a community, allowing another avenue for law enforcement crack down on human trafficking operations in Texas.

HB 1994 (Randy Weber of Pearland and Van de Putte) made it permissible for local communities to hold a mandatory, day-long session for first-time “johns” (offenders who seek a prostitute), otherwise known as a “John School.” These sessions educate johns on the risks of having sex with a prostitute, including the reality of human trafficking, health risks, and other harms that come to their personal life and the community.

Saar’s article helps us all to understand the problem, and two Texas Baptist CLC web sites (general and policy) have more information.

We can all add a big “thank you” to the Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry for helping us make progress against these terrible crimes.

(This post originally appeared on the texasbaptists.org site.)

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Some good news on human trafficking

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson

United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson has announced that three defendants charged in a domestic sex trafficking case have been convicted in Houston.

The three men entered guilty pleas Oct. 5 before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes. All were convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The convictions were part of Operation Total Exposure, the single largest domestic sex trafficking case in the history of the Southern District of Texas, said a release from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office.

Texas Baptists and other believers in the state are mobilizing to combat all forms of human trafficking, and those efforts have included education efforts with law enforcement officers and other workers in the criminal justice system. It’s paying off.

Regular citizens can help in this effort by being on the lookout for questionable businesses. The Houston case indicates some of the enterprises that are suspect.

Court records indicated the defendants operated commercialized sex businesses often disguised as modeling studios, health spas, massage parlors and bikini bars in Houston, the news release said. Further testimony proved they also utilized sexually oriented publications and websites to advertise their illicit business.

Evidence revealed the conspirators recruited women and minors as young as 16 to work as prostitutes and perform commercial sex acts. Members of the criminal enterprise transported women and minors to and from the Houston area and had ties to Kansas, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida.

These businesses are selling sex, but there is violence behind the scenes. The women were routinely beaten and threatened in order to instill fear in them and to insure their obedience. Some of the Houston co-conspirators also had sexual intercourse with the minor females. Any proceeds the women received as a result of their sexual encounters where taken by the members of the enterprise, rendering them dependent upon the defendants for basic necessities.

It’s a dirty, violent business. We can all be thankful that prosecutors, law enforcement, churches, and church members are fighting it.

Pornography fueling human trafficking

Attention: Pornography is causing more pain and suffering than many imagine. The Internet is the latest means of encouraging sexual fantasies, but the devastating impact of pornography is anything but a fantasy. There are victims, real victims.

Ken Camp of the Baptist Standard has written a helpful story that connects pornography to human trafficking. Ken covered a recent “Freedom Ring” event at First Baptist Church of Commerce that dealt with trafficking. Freedom Ring is an alliance of Christians against human trafficking, and the Texas Baptist Advocacy/Care Center and Woman’s Missionary Union of Texas are key partners in the effort.

Pornography represents a form of commercial sexual exploitation with “branches and tentacles that reach into our homes,” said Noel Bouché, vice president of PureHope. Pornography constitutes 10 percent of the Internet’s content, and its creators use trafficking victims—many of them minors—in porn production, Noel Bouché, vice president of PureHope, told the Commerce gathering.

There is an evil at work here that is hard to comprehend, and it’s fueled by money, much of it paid by viewers of pornography.

Christians need to realize the magnitude of the commercial sex industry,  said Tomi Grover, founder of TraffickStop, which is supported by the Texas Baptist Cooperative Program and the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions.

“Pornography in the United States makes more than the National Football League. It makes more than Major League Baseball. It makes more than the National Basketball Association. In fact, it makes more than all three combined,” Grover said.

“It’s a global problem that’s happening in our own country and that’s being channeled into every home,” Bouché said.

Grover made a staggering comment. “The average age of exposure to pornography is 8 years old,” she said. “Exposing children to porn is like putting their brains on opiate drugs.”

Bouché urged Christians to pursue a four-fold response–pray, understand, resolve, and engage.

Why respond? Because Scripture teaches that every person is his or her brother’s keeper, and God hears the cry of the oppressed, said Van Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church in Comanche. Churches cannot escape their responsibility to God when it comes to responding to issues of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The Baptist Standard story provides more detail on the conference.

This needs to be talked about in our churches–from the pulpit and in smaller groups. It’s not easy to talk about, but the need is there. People are hurting and suffering. We need to care enough to do something.

Good news on human trafficking front

I received this mass email from International Justice Mission today. I just had to share this great news because it is a reminder of just how much work needs to be done in combating human trafficking. We can make a difference.

Dear Ferrell,

Today, 522 people are returning to their homes in freedom after being rescued from a brutal brick factory in IJM’s largest operation ever.

Earlier this week, a man reported that his younger brother was being held as a slave in the brick factory. My IJM colleagues and the local government partnered to release him and found not just one man, but hundreds of children, women and men desperate to escape. The team quickly moved into action, initiating the biggest rescue operation in IJM’s history.


Breaking News - 522 rescued

CHENNAI, India – Rescued from slavery, 143 families prepare to return to their homes. Read coverage of the operation in the Times of India.

Conditions in the factory were brutal: A government medical official saw scars that indicated many of the victims may have been tortured. The laborers were forbidden to leave the factory, and did not have enough food. The owner has been placed under arrest.

But today, these families know great kindness and care, due to the commitment of the government officials who not only ordered their release but even held a special ceremony to celebrate their freedom.

These great miracles of freedom would simply not be possible without your support. Thank you for standing with us.

Gratefully,
Signature - Gary Haugen - White
Gary Haugen
President and CEO
International Justice Mission