Trafficking in Flesh: New Report on Human Trafficking in Houston and the United States

Remember when Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, said he was just a banker doing "God's work"? That statement was both false and borderline blasphemous. Some folks who are actually doing the lord's work are the people at Polaris Project, an NGO, which started The National Human Trafficking Resource Center in 2007. Its goal: "combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and to strengthening the anti-trafficking movement through a comprehensive approach." NHTRC does this by having a 24-hour hotline, providing emergency shelter and legal services to those victims of human trafficking.

NHTRC recently released an extensive report on what it has learned about human trafficking in the United States since 2007, the year the Center was formed. Human trafficking largely takes shape in two forms: sex trafficking -- 33 percent of which are minors -- and labor trafficking, which is akin to modern-day slavery. And for the most unfortunate, there are some who are exploited in both ways. While the report does have some self-admitted limitations, it is the most comprehensive database we have.

Texas ranks second only to California in human trafficking -- rounding out the top 10 are Florida, New York, Illinois, D.C., Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia. Houston, given its geographic proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, is unsurprisingly a hot-spot for human trafficking; ABC news reports that the area just south of the Galleria Mall is a particularly notorious area for trafficking. If you're curious, the states, and I'm excluding U.S. territories, with the lowest reported human trafficking were New Hampshire, South Dakota, Delaware, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Of the "survivors" the NHTRC has helped save, nearly 82 percernt are female, and less than 1 percent are transgender. Interestingly, almost three-quarters of the survivors' primary language was English (19 percent reported Spanish as their primary language). Almost all of the sex trafficking took the form of pimp-controlled prostitution (hotels/motels, truck stops) and commercial-front brothels or simply sex trafficking of a general, unspecified nature. Labor trafficking victims primarily found themselves doing domestic work or restaurant/food service work, although the reported cases run the gamut to almost every type of manual labor and service industry sector. Save for domestic work, where approximately 87 percent were female victims, the other job sectors were majority male victims. Not surprisingly, the most common violations were wage and hour (many time the victims were simply not paid) and contract violations, which largely amounts to the same.

We all can agree that this is terrible. But there's nothing you can do about it. Wrong. If you see what you suspect is a sex or labor trafficking situation call NHTRC's hotline: 1-888-373-7888. Truck drivers have reported sex trafficking. So have normal civilians. Maybe the next time you're driving in the Galleria area, be on the lookout. It will take you five minutes to call and you, no exaggeration, might be helping someone get their life back.

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