This post was featured in Southwest Airline’s blog!
‘Jasmin’ walked up to our table during one of our city outreach events. Intrigued, she cautiously inquired about our organization, United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT). After discovering a bit about us, she shared her own experiences: she had been trafficked.
Jasmin‘s exploitation occurred on and off for years. Using force, fraud, and coercion, her trafficker compelled Jasmin to work without pay as a housecleaner and have sex with strangers for his own profit.
No cages or chains like in the movies – the threat of violence, of withheld food or shelter were more than enough to keep Jasmin trapped.
Still, Jasmin tried to leave. But each time she managed to escape, the man reappeared in her life to derail it. The trauma she experienced, coupled with lack of support, led a hopeless to Jasmin to becoming dependent on drugs an alcohol to cope.
UAHT’s Outreach team acted quickly. They helped Jasmin navigate the intake process at a local clinic and arranged for transportation – all during a standard tabling event. Now safe, Jasmin is on a journey to recovery from both exploitation and addiction.
And it all started because she felt safe enough with our team to share her story.
UAHT’s Outreach Team Acted Quickly
Since 2005, we have assisted and empowered human trafficking victims, survivors, and at-risk persons like Jasmin. Our vision is a world without the trauma Jasmin experienced, with zero tolerance for the buying and selling of human life. We fight so that all may live free.
UAHT began as a small volunteer coalition in Houston that formed in response to the area’s dire trafficking problem: major highways, thriving trade, proximity to a major border, and a booming sex industry all contribute to the Greater Houston Area’s hotbed of human trafficking.
Today, UAHT is a leader in the Greater Houston Area’s anti-trafficking movement, unifying organizations across the region to develop a strategic approach to ending exploitation for the purposes of sex AND labor.
We collaborate extensively with the Houston Mayor’s Office, the Houston Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and other governmental and nongovernmental entities to ensure trafficked persons are treated with the respect and autonomy they deserve.
Our goal at UAHT is to find and fill service gaps in our region. Trafficking victims are all too often hidden in plain sight due to stigma, ignorance, and fear. They often belong to marginalized groups such as the homeless, immigrants/refugees, LGBTQ+, the substance-dependent, the mentally ill, and survivors of domestic/sexual violence, who already face enormous struggles.
We go out into the community to identify these forgotten victims, help in any way we can, and equip them with the tools they need to break free when they’re ready.
How We Fight for Freedom
UAHT’s programs and services span six different fields of anti-trafficking work: education, prevention, outreach, direct services, demand reduction, and coalition-building.
We teach adults and children how to spot human trafficking and dispel myths. Youths learn how to avoid trafficker grooming tactics. We train frontline professionals such as healthcare workers and law enforcement on how to notice the signs of exploitation when they encounter them in their day-to-day work – and how to help victims safely.
We equip youths in schools, juvenile justice centers, homeless shelters, and child welfare settings with the life skills necessary to navigate exploitative situations and avoid being (re)trafficked. If a child discloses trafficking, we work with them to get the support they deserve.
We engage at-risk, overlooked populations on the street and at partnering sites to direct them to community resources. Potential human trafficking victims are connected to care.
We facilitate support groups for survivors of human trafficking. Participants learn how to process their trauma and develop the coping skills to avoid (re)exploitation. This also includes a family support group that involves the entire caregiving unit of child sex trafficking victims. Comprehensive case management provides survivors of sex and/or labor trafficking of all genders with the support and guidance needed to recover.
Our newest initiative seeks to challenge the preconceived notions of sex buyers who fuel human trafficking. Using a non-judgmental support group approach, convicted male sex buyers discuss their experiences with masculinity, femininity, sexuality, and relationships. The goal is to disrupt the demand for buying sex, therefore dismantling the industry from the ground up.
UAHT is the lead agency of the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition (HRRC). The Coalition is comprised of over 50 different entities – nonprofit and for-profit, governmental and private, faith-based and secular, service providers and awareness groups – all with the same goal in mind: ending human trafficking in the Greater Houston Area. HRRC provides mentorship for agencies and fights exploitation together.
Until all of us are free, none of us are free. I would like to thank Southwest Airlines for all their support and for helping us spread awareness of human trafficking in our communities. No single person or organization can end exploitation. This lucrative criminal industry will only fall if we stand together, UNITED against it.