February is known as the month of love but for many, this is far from the truth. Human trafficking awareness month is also marked as February and the issue of trafficking in persons has been a universal concern for the world. The Department of the State states, “ ‘Trafficking in persons’ and ‘human trafficking’ have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts using force, fraud, or coercion.” This term is used for all forms of forced labor to any person, male or female.
I was first introduced to sex trafficking on a trip to New York. As I toured a church, we noticed a woman across the street removing the light from her porch. I later found out that this act was the woman’s way of telling her “customers” that her “business” was full. Her “business” was pimping out ladies, or sex trafficking. My initial reaction was one of rejection as I couldn’t believe this happened in the United States. Because New York is far from Texas, I was sure this issue was not close to home. In 2016, I took a trip to Thailand where I toured a non-profit called Compass 31 (compass31.org). Their mission is to serve women and girls who were/are affected by sex trafficking and have/had become pregnant because of this. As we toured, the owner of the non-profit shared her story. She was from Texas, where she was trafficked out by her grandfather from 3 years old to 18 years old and had her son because of her exploitation. This is when I realized that trafficking happens everywhere. I now attend Texas State University studying social work and hear about the trafficking of people daily. We are urged to be aware of our surroundings and know where trafficking is heavy in the small town of San Marcos, Texas.
As February ends, I urge you to research sex trafficking and become familiar with the signs and signals of those being exploited and exploiting others.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline’s number is 1 (888) 373-7888 or text “help” or “info” to 233733.
ERIN HAMBY is a Junior at Texas State University majoring in Social Work. She has a passion for helping those affecting by sex trafficking and in her spare time advocates on their behalf. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org , feel free to email her for resources and with questions.