On December 31, 2012 President Obama made a national declaration that January would be devoted to preventing and stopping human trafficking. Stating that January 11, 2013 would be “National Human Trafficking Awareness Day” devoting today for the entire nation to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Today thousands are talking about the reality of modern day slavery. Although, people educated on the injustice of human trafficking are at an all time high in North Texas more work is needed for people to understand that slavery exist right here in their hometowns. Not just in third world countries. And better laws need to be enacted to protect minor victims of sex trafficking.
In the past five years there have been studies conducted here in North Texas that reveal a present and existing problem with American minors forced into sex trafficking. In 2008, a report done by “Shared Hope International” in Fort Worth, Texas revealed that 35 children were exploited. These were underage girls within the juvenile justice system. In a recent study done in 2011 by the “Dallas Women’s Foundation” exposed a higher number during the month of February with 214 under age girls being exploited through the Internet for sexual exploitation.
Texas on any given weekend night, there are 137 girls under age 18 commercially sexually exploited through ads posted on websites. For Dallas-Fort Worth specifically, there are 42 girls.
“Adolescent Girls in the Texas Sex Trade”
Tracking Study Results for February, 2011
“Dallas Women’s Foundation”
Landmark case “The Matter of BW” in 2010 within the Texas Supreme Court established that under the age of 14 a child could not legally consent to prostitution. Over two years later under-age girls are still forced into sex trafficking and treated as criminals, arrested and face juvenile detention. The criminalization of the victim can have a lasting effect on their ability to heal from the trauma they have suffered. Imagine being criminalized for being enslaved, this is what victims face daily.
“Polaris Project” a national non-profit that runs the human trafficking hotline is ask people to sign a petition on change.org. The petition asks state lawmakers to set up safe harbor laws for commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC). Safe harbor laws have been established in a few states in the U.S. Texas however, has no safe harbor law for children that are being exploited by traffickers.
“When a girl is trapped by a pimp who sells her for sex online, she needs protection, not prosecution. Yet, all too often, these children are still arrested and treated like criminals.”
Non-profits, Shared Hope International, Polaris Project are hoping that a safe harbor law will be established in the state of Texas in 2013. The law would help children from being penalized for the abuse and exploitation they have suffered at the hands of their trafficker. Some Safe Harbor laws establish that minors under the ages of 16 will not be prosecuted or criminalized for prostitution.
Texas has been a leader in the fight against human trafficking. State lawmakers along with Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbot have helped Texas to create stiffer penalties and fines for convicted traffickers. As a result Texas has been on the forefront in the fight against slavery in the United States.
To sign the petition for Safe Harbor laws click here.