I want to share a story with you – the story of the very first sex trafficking survivor to enroll in our Case Management Program last fall.
“Maggie” was trafficked for sex.
The physical and emotional pain was overpowering, and she learned she could escape with drugs. Abuse seemed to be the theme of her life: from her trafficker AND her ex-husband.
One day, Maggie’s ex-husband assaulted her and knocked out some of her teeth.
Her trafficker, ex-husband, and drug dependence posed immense danger to Maggie’s parents and two children; they fled from her life for their safety.
When Maggie joined our program after exiting the Life of sex trafficking, she saw things start to turn around.
Maggie is now a sex trafficking survivor.
Over the past few months, Maggie worked tirelessly to become sober and to confront her trauma with healthy coping skills. She has come so far. The next step was finding a stable job and building economic independence when she hit another roadblock: missing teeth.
Anxiety-filled questions raced through her mind: “What would they think of me? Would they ask me why my teeth are gone? Would I have to tell them my history? Who would want to hire someone like that?”
But then, something happened.
With Maggie’s sobriety and safe distance from her abusers, Maggie not only reunited with her children, but with her parents, too. Her dad was so proud of her progress that he agreed to bring Maggie onto his dental care plan and pay to fix her teeth!
Maggie sent us a beautiful picture of her new smile. Now, she feels ready to take on the world – starting with a few job interviews.
And today, we have exciting news. Maggie has been HIRED!
Maggie is starting a job with one of our amazing partners. As we’ve gotten to know Maggie more, we learned she has a strong interest in sewing and fashion.
Our Case Manager helped Maggie create her resume and apply for a paid training program that teaches her sewing basics and life-long skills for employment.
We are so proud of Maggie and are so thankful to you for making this happen. With your support, we have a Case Management program to help labor and sex trafficking survivors like her become safe, sober, and reunited with their families. Congratulations to Maggie for embarking on a new life journey!
Our hearts are shattered at the loss of 8 people in Atlanta.
We’re in shock at this atrocity and we are angry. Our most heartfelt condolences are with the families of Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, and four other unnamed victims and our hope is that they may rest in peace.
The grim reality we face now is that these murders were likely a culmination of a pandemic, racism, misogyny, and human trafficking.
The COVID-19 pandemic spiked hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. spiked 150% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Asian Americans were targeted in nearly 3,800 hate incidents in the past year. Of the 8 who were murdered, 6 were Asian women. We stand in solidarity with Asian and Asian American communities.
The victims were likely being trafficked for sex.
They were murdered in what are likely fronts for brothels: 2 of the 3 spas are open 24/7, their websites feature photos of women, and they have suspicious reviews that indicate illicit transactions. The third spa doesn’t have a website.
One review made it clear to prospective sex buyers that the Gold Spa is a front by saying, “if you were wondering yes it is,” and another suggested, “ask for a Korean girl from the lady that meets you at the door.”
With Atlanta being one of the top 5 cities in the United States for reports of human trafficking, it is extremely likely that these murder victims were victims of sex trafficking.
The shooter admitted to sex addiction and likely frequented these brothels.
The shooter saw his victims as expendable to meet his own needs. In his own words, he killed them because they were, “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
This horrible incident highlights just how critical it is to address human trafficking at its roots: racism, misogyny, poverty, and demand.
There are over 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas – and over 1,280,000 in the Americas. Each of those victims – who are already experiencing an extreme form of abuse – are at a heightened risk for additional forms of violence just as we are seeing now. One study found that 71% of prostituted people were physically assaulted.
Simply put, if we live in a society where we’re okay purchasing another human being for even a half hour, we don’t value others lives as our own.
Our thoughts are with those who died in Atlanta. May we all learn from this horrific crime and may we keep fighting until every person lives free.
Viral posts about human trafficking stormed the internet in 2020 – but how do we distinguish the truth from fake posts or partial truths?
How human trafficking is portrayed on social media and in news stories impacts survivors and anti-trafficking work.
In this episode, we sit down with Christa Mayfield, Education Director at Unbound Houston. We discuss harmful conspiracies, how survivors want to be portrayed in the media, and what you can do spread the truth about human trafficking.
Follow Rebecca Bender @IAmRebeccaBender on Instagram
Follow Bekah Charleston @BekahSpeaksOut on Instagram
Follow Katherine Givens @KatGivens on Instagram
Before you share a social media post, check the facts and sources.
COVID caused the worst-case-scenario for getting survivors the care they need.
Although we pivoted prevention and education efforts online, COVID launched very real and devastating roadblocks within the counter-trafficking network. We refuse to ignore the complex realities that COVID is imposing on our mission.
But we have a solution: The Pathway – a referral system to connect trafficking survivors to service providers.
COVID Intensified The Issue of Human Trafficking
COVID increased vulnerability within the community. A downward economic turn and isolation are what traffickers count on to exploit. Economic devastation hurled the unemployed into desperation. Social distancing sunk survivors into isolation and depression. Staying at home forced many children living with their abuser into constant danger.
COVID decreased access to life-saving care. Shelters and safe homes locked down for the health of staff, volunteers, and clients, leaving survivors without a safe place to escape. Courts closed, leaving survivors without T-Visas and U-Visas for legal status as trafficking survivors. Hospital resources are focused on COVID-related testing and treatment, pushing survivors with other health problems by the wayside. Reduced operations and program capacities paused referrals between organizations.
We watched survivors slip through the cracks of a system meant to empower them.
Though this is reality, it is not the end.
Houston Lacks Infrastructure To Help Survivors Efficiently
Our goal is for trafficking survivors to build a vibrant life. As Houstonians, we are known for our generous hearts and quick action to serve. Exploitation is systemic. We need to go beyond providing individual services. We need a clear path to freedom for survivors.
Many of our partners specialize on one issue – homelessness, substance use, therapy, legal aid. Each holds necessary and life-saving programs in our city. But trafficking survivors often need care from all the specialists.
Right now, Houston lacks the infrastructure to connect these separate care centers, causing a series of unnecessary roadblocks – countless hours of phone tag between agencies, inaccurate data collection, and worst of all survivors being referred to inappropriate programs and being denied services.
Amid COVID, agencies have altered capacity and program availability. We can’t keep up. COVID has highlighted just how critical a virtual, instantaneous referral program is.
Houston, We Have A Solution
Our solution is The Pathway – a referral system that joins together the services available in Houston. By enhancing efficiency, accountability, and survivor experience, a path to freedom is possible.
The Pathway accelerates the referral process between agencies because a program’s capacity and in-take requirements are input into the database from the start. No more weeks of phone tag only to be denied into a program. Survivors will be connected to the right program immediately.
The Pathway provides accountability to partnering organizations by gathering objective data. It will record how quickly organizations respond to referrals, if and where survivors are dropping out, and where a program needs to be added.
Increased efficiency and accountability mean that survivors won’t wait as long to receive the best, most relevant care. Survivors can avoid re-living their trauma by explaining their story to every organization they encounter because they shared it once in the database. Instead, they will already be known and understood before beginning a program.
A Sneak Peek At The Piloting Agencies
Long-term housing and restoration services to adult female survivors of sex trafficking.
By employing a trauma-informed holistic healing program, Redeemed Ministries empowers survivors to regain their identity and develop skills and plans to live a safe, independent life.
Tahirih Justice Center
Legal services for women and children who are survivors of sex and/or labor trafficking.
Tahirih Justice Center elevates the voices of women and girls to create a world of equality, safety, and dignity. Through their work in Greater Houston and Nationally, they supply legal services and provide opportunities for policy advocacy in securing improved victim-centered legislation, helping women and children obtain what is needed for their restoration.
Basic needs, short-term housing, T-Visa/U-Visa certification for men, women, and children who are survivors of sex or labor trafficking.
With 75 years of experience working in the Greater Houston Area, Catholic Charities provides expertise in basic needs provision, shelter, and T-Visa/U-Visa certification. Catholic Charities ensures families and individuals in all walks of life and from any place receive the best possible services.
United Against Human Trafficking
Case management for men and women who are survivors of sex and/or labor trafficking.
A survivor’s escape is only the beginning of a long and painful journey to a new life. United Against Human Trafficking provides a trained Case Manager to guide a survivor from their initial escape until they’ve rebuilt their lives.
This is a huge moment in the fight to end human trafficking.
Years of challenges, disappointments, and frustrations are culminating at this moment.
The Pathway is emerging as a critical solution, one that will change the landscape of trafficking in Houston, for the better.