Saturday, November 12, 2011

Human Trafficking in Houston


photo source: the marketing analysts
When you think of Houston, Texas, you think of big oil companies, cowboys, football and steak houses right?  Would you be surprised to know that Houston is becoming known as home to a fast growing slave trade, with more sexually oriented businesses per square mile than Las Vegas? [1]
Of all human trafficking victims certified in the United States, 25% of them were in Texas, the majority of whom were in Houston. Of all human trafficking victims certified in the United States, 25% of them were in Texas, the majority of which were in Houston. [2]

Steven Goff, project director for Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition, says "A lot of people think that trafficking just occurs in seedy places, you know in dark alleys or something like that. And while it does, it also occurs in plain sight. There are places that people in Houston pass by on a daily basis where there is human trafficking — modern-day slaves — inside those places that are housed there for two to three weeks at a time and then rotated somewhere else.”  

How are these SOBs (sexually oriented businesses) getting away with ugly crimes against humanity, such as the physical abuse, rape, imprisonment or forced prostitution and exploitation of women and children?  By hiding in plain sight and operating in new ways that law enforcement and the public won’t easily suspect.

We may expect businesses such as bars, escort services, and massage parlors to be business fronts for the sale of illegal drugs or sexual services.  Just as drug dealing spread from the back alleys to the white collar crowd, human traffickers can be the family man next door who operates a small construction or property management company, lingerie or photography studio.  These businesses launder money and market their service to clients while using prostitutes as an incentive to close deals and contracts.

source: usatoday.com
For example, let’s say Xtra Ripoff Company (XRC) rents an office space, puts up a website, prints some business cards and hires an expert “salesman” to hustle the property manager soliciting bids for construction or maintenance work.  An office building property manager needs the flooring replaced and asks for an estimate.  The “expert salesman” claims that XRC will do a first class job on the floor and takes the manager out to a sports bar or strip club where the proprietor has prostitutes ready to service the client(s). The bid that XRC turns in for the work may be around $24,0000, which is enough to more than cover the special perks provided to the property manager.  On paper, the bid may look high but nothing that appears to be illegal or embarrassing for the property manager to explain to his family, the property owner or shareholders.  Meanwhile, XRC turns the job over to a “real” flooring company to complete the work and pays them $14,000 for the new flooring.  The salesman may put in appearances at the job site to "manage" the job and keep in contact with the client.  At the payout XRC pockets $10,000, pays the proprietor handling the prostitutes a kickback of $700 in addition to the costs of drinks bought for the clients and hookers.  The hookers, of course will receive a token payment or nothing at all.

Such a business as XRC may refer clients to sexually oriented businesses and in so doing funnel dollars to their motel, lingerie, video or boudoir photography fronts.  Prostitution promoters may receive free or discounted lingerie or photographs to recommend their services so that XRC will handle all their "jobs".  In this manner, thousands of dollars are laundered between businesses with a built in clientele that keeps the records legitimate looking to local officials.

“Human trafficking is a 32 billion dollar industry.” (Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition website – www.houstonrr.org) 

Even if you believe that everyone should mind their own business and let adults do what adults want to do, the problem is that many of the people working as dancers, escorts and hookers are enslaved to work at these occupations.  Slaves of the sex industry are unlikely to ask for help from clients because they fear there is no chance of escape from their captors and are resigned to the life of a slave.  Sex traffickers condition women and children for the sex trade through various methods such as drug addiction, mental and physical abuse, rape, gang rape, shame, imprisonment, and threat of violence to the victim’s family.  Trauma bonding is a form of brain washing which trains the victim to perform for his/her captor in the hope of winning approval, comfort or favor instead of punishment.

logo source: socialtimes.com
“Few activities are as brutal and damaging to people as prostitution. Field research in nine countries concluded that 60 to 75 percent of women in prostitution were raped, 70 to 95 percent were physically assaulted, and 68 percent met the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder in the same range as treatment-seeking combat veterans and victims of state-organized torture.” (U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report, June 3, 2005. http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2005/46606.htm.) 

There has been an alarming rise in human trafficking and child prostitution in the world, including the United States and particularly Texas.  Law enforcement and research studies indicate that the internet has made it too easy for predators to connect with one another and use the internet as a resource for human trafficking operations.  The overload of pornography and online violence toward women and children has desensitized the public to horrific images.  We adults like to mind our own business and even give a wink and a nod at the men who suggest there is no harm in using pornography, or the services of a hooker to entertain, promote business relations or satisfy a man’s needs.  The evidence clearly indicates that there IS great harm to the victims of these practices.

Not a sunny subject to discuss around the dinner table, but the topic is an important one to discuss if we want change to be effected.  What can you do to stop the degradation of your city by human traffickers?

·          Become aware of the signs of human trafficking in your surrounding community and report suspicious activities to local authorities or the National Trafficking Resource Hotline: 1-888-3737-888.  
 ·         Visit www.PolarisProject.Org for in depth information on how to help stop human trafficking.  

 Spread the message and raise awareness of the growing slave trade.  I’ll say the unpopular thing that many (men in particular) don’t like to hear which is there is a high cost to our society for the use of porn and it comes in the silent acceptance of ugly behavior and treatment of poor men, women and children.
 
 Changing attitudes IS done through one person who shares an idea with others to stop a trend or start a new one.
  
Please click on the below video links for more info related to this subject:


[1] http://app1.kuhf.org/articles/1285968465-Human-Trafficking-Houstons-Hidden-Problem.html
[2] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rescue and Restore Campaign Results, 4/04 - 01/06

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  Edmund Burke


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