November 7, 2019 by HCDE-Texas
Former U.S. Rep. Ted Poe shared statistics and his passion for helping human trafficking victims in an event hosted by Children At Risk and the Center for Safe and Secure Schools held Nov. 5 at Harris County Department of Education. Presenters included Children At Risk staff, Love People Not Pixels organization, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for Sex Crimes and Trafficking, human trafficking survivor Sandy Storm and Poe, an ardent supporter of victims’ rights.
Survivor Storm shared her personal story as a victim of human trafficking. American born, Storm was raised by her single mother who was influenced by a businessman who victimized both mother and daughter. Later, Storm turned to drugs to numb her life experiences. She was awakened by a human trafficking awareness event where she realized that she was a victim. Today she is writing her third books about the experience and presents throughout the nation to raise awareness.
“All it took was a man with power and money and me being vulnerable,” Storm said.
Storm explains human trafficking as being a buying and selling of bodies and souls and differentiates porn as the renting and leasing of bodies and souls. Storm recognizes technological advances for enabling and proliferating pornography and human trafficking.
Children at Risk attorney Jamie Caruthers urged educators to look for red flags with children and teens Those include dramatic changes in behavior, talking about sexual activities that exceed age-group norms, barcode or ownership tattoos and physical signs of abuse or reluctance to explain injuries.
In Texas, approximately 900,000 children attend school within one mile of illegal massage businesses acting as fronts for human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
“It is important that educators, parents and community members are aware of this growing epidemic of Human Trafficking across the country, but specifically in Harris County,” said Center for Safe and Secure Schools Director Julia Andrews. “Our young students are being trafficked and raising the awareness of what to look for can literally be a life-or-death situation. HCDE’s Center continues to provide the Human Trafficking Summit and awareness trainings throughout the year to put a stop to this horrible crime in our city.”
Johna Stallings from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office of Sex Crimes and trafficking discussed Project 180, a local program that helps female victims ages 18-24. About 90 percent of the women helped have backgrounds of child sexual abuse, she said.
“Almost every single one of these women have been victimized,” she said. “There is an escalation of risky behavior, and after that their self-worth diminishes.”
Project 180 helps the women get away from their pimps and connects them with social services.
Stalling also shared the district attorney office’s aggressive campaign to expose and prosecute sex buyers and sellers.
“A 13-year old girl that is trafficked is not a prostitute,” he said. “They can’t consent.
“Treat these people like victim of crimes. They need help.”