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.
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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.
My Dear Friend,
Decades of history can happen in a single year. 2020 is a testament to that. It is with this understanding and our mission to end human trafficking in mind that I share my heart with you. Nonprofit leaders throughout the nation contemplate the same dilemma: What can we give you, our dearest friends, to let you know we carry gratitude for your support in our hearts every day?
Hope for the future. For justice. For unity. Hope for the growing, changing movement against human trafficking. Why? Because I know you walk beside me. I know that when I reach out a hand in solidarity, you will take it and rise with me.
It is easy to lose hope during a year that presented us with so many trials: a global pandemic, confronting the unjust death of George Floyd and countless other African Americans, and the most significant election of the century. Day after day, we are barraged with events that seem designed to rob us of our hope and love for each other.
But United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT) has never given up.
We never lost sight of our mission: to end human trafficking
through educating the community, preventing exploitation, and empowering survivors.
Our clarity of vision allowed us to pivot no matter what the world threw at us in 2020. We effectively served human trafficking survivors, engaged the community, and planned for a bright future. I am deeply thankful for all our new and established partners who stood alongside us this year.
2020 marks the 20th anniversary of The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA). This federal statute sparked the anti-trafficking movement — a movement that has involved governments, communities, corporations, nonprofits, individuals, and so many more. Throughout the years, UAHT has emerged as a leader. We are at the forefront of change and progress, moving the fight ever forward in the spirit of unity and collaboration.
What will the next 20 years hold for the anti-trafficking movement?
UAHT will continue growing and continue unifying our partners against injustice. But this progress will not mean forgetting the past. 2020 was full of trauma from which we continue to recover. I know many of us have experienced significant losses. Let’s choose to live our best lives, celebrate each other fiercely, and relentlessly strive to make the world a better place for everybody in it.
My heart is full of love and gratitude for the tireless support of UAHT staff, board members, volunteers, partners, and donors like you. Let’s continue to stand united against injustice. Let’s continue to cherish one another in 2021 and beyond.
With unwaivering love,
Together, we can end human trafficking.
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.