The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Sex trafficking rises in DFW

Sex+trafficking+rises+in+DFW
Photo Illustration by MICHAEL DANSER/The Daily Campus

(Photo Illustration by MICHAEL DANSER/The Daily Campus)

“One little girl finally told her captor just to kill her—she couldn’t do it anymore. The pimp refused, telling her he makes too much money off her. If she wouldn’t do what he told her to, he would kidnap her 8-year-old little sister and pour battery acid over her face while she watched. The little girl complied, living in a dog cage when she wasn’t being sold to man after man.”

This is a true story, told by a survivor on http://Traffick911.com.

From a monetary stance, the pimp was right. On average, one underage girl brings in $200,000 a year.

The industry as a whole makes $32 billion a year, a figure higher than most Fortune 500 corporations.

The “I’m Not Buying It” campaign launched this month in North Texas by Traffick911, a nonprofit that works toward the prevention, rescue and restoration of human trafficking victims, in an effort to raise awareness for the trafficking of American children.

The campaign began in accordance with the increase of sex trafficking expected by the 2011 Super Bowl.

“The Super Bowl is a huge platform for groups like Traffick911 to raise awareness,” said Danielle Capper, Traffick911 Media Specialist and SMU alumna. “It’s given us a microphone to talk about trafficking.”

According to the End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT) of Children for Sexual Purposes, around 100,000 U.S. children are forcefully engaged in prostitution or pornography each year.

“They get them at an age where they can control them and convince them that they’re worthless,” Capper said. “The young victims are literally enslaved by it.”

The United States is the number one demand country for trafficked children as well as the number one supplier.

“It could happen to you, your little sister or right down the road to a Highland Park middle school student,” Capper said. “I just think that most people don’t realize it’s happening right here.”

The need for organizations such as Traffick911 was demonstrated by the results of a recent study funded by the Dallas Women’s Foundation.

The study found that in Texas, 740 underage girls were being marketed for sex in a 30-day period. Two hundred fifty-six of these girls were in the North Texas area.

This number only accounted for girls sold through online publications such as backpage.com and escort services. Girls sold on the street, in massage parlors and by other means were not counted, meaning that the actual number of victims could be much higher.

Driving down I-35, a recently placed LOVE146 billboard reads, “I am a slave in the land of the free.”

LOVE146, an organization that focuses on prevention and aftercare solutions for trafficking victims, has also launched a new campaign entitled, “It’s Not My Fault.”

“We are trying to get out the message that it’s not their fault; children can never be complicit to this,” LOVE146 Global Communications Director Christian Elliot said.

Each billboard and campaign material also says, “Get Help. 1-888-373-7888.”

“One of the important things our campaign brings, besides awareness, is it brings the Human Trafficking Hotline to more people,” Elliot said.

To get involved with the “It’s Not My Fault Campaign,” visit itsnotmyfault.org or attend the interest meeting at Irving Bible Church this Friday Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

The reality of this issue in the area has more than just non-profits getting involved. Dallas area police are working towards community awareness and prevention as well.

“Most people think of trafficking as women and children smuggled across the border or from countries over seas; however, domestic trafficking is a significant problem in DFW and the rest of the country,” Walters said.

The North Texas Trafficking Task Force was started in September 2010 as a way to combat the growing problem. The task force is comprised of the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations and leaders of 16 other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including six Texas police departments: Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Plano and Garland.

“The North Texas Trafficking Task Force formed to not only attack the criminals, but to find, help and assist the victims of human trafficking,” ICE officer Carl Rusnok said.

In addition to the task force, ICE has instigated the “Blue Campaign” to increase its efforts in educating the public about the plight of human trafficking victims.

“Trafficking has been present in the DFW area for a long time.  It will be present before, during and after the Super Bowl,” said Jim Walters, a Department of Justice liaison and SMU police officer.

During the Super Bowl last year, combined efforts of the police and non-profits rescued 45 girls from the bonds of sex trafficking.

Despite staggering statistics and a growing problem, human trafficking in the DFW area can be combated.

Awareness is the first step.

“The more intelligence gathered, the more we can crush this abhorrent crime,” Elliot said.

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