OneVo!ceHome: Human Trafficking is the Exclamation Point to Modern Day Injustice – learn what one committed community in West Texas is doing to “break the silence”

Jacqueline Beretta & OneVo!ceHome

Did you know that every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of modern-day slavery? OneVo!ceHome

Or that there are 48.8M slaves in the world today? 22% are sex slaves.

Embarrassed to say that Texas is ranked #2 in the nation for the most reported human trafficking cases.

And shockingly, 400 trafficked, underage teens work the streets of Dallas each night.

The average age an American girl enters the sex trade is 13. Valiant Hearts

This new report sends chills up my spine: Across the state of Texas, there are hundreds of illegal massage businesses acting as fronts for human trafficking and sexual exploitation. These havens for human trafficking are hiding in plain sight: they exist all across our major cities, tucked inside some of our wealthiest neighborhoods. Many can even be found within walking distance of public schools. There is a map here.  Children at Risk

 

Kudos to a group of women in Lubbock, Texas, who decided to start fighting to make a difference in their community for girls 11-17 years old, who are victims of sex trafficking. Tour the future campus of OneVo!ceHome.

“Faced with the knowledge there are girls and young women in our community, Lubbock, Texas, who are victims of domestic sex trafficking and are not receiving long-term victim care—OneVo!ceHome is taking the lead in providing these services through a home of healing and restoration for them. Our board of directors is uniting to give voice and value to domestic victims of sex trafficking. Civic leaders, victim service agencies, and leaders of local churches have connected with the same heart, and together we are called to speak out with “one voice” for these victims. OneVo!ceHome is committed to providing a safe home for restoration and new beginnings for sexually exploited girls.”

—Terisa Clark, OneVo!ceHome President.

What is Human Trafficking?

Most people assume that slavery stopped in the modern world with the end of the Civil War; however, over 150 years later, slavery persists worldwide in the form of human trafficking. It is estimated that almost 21 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal activity in the world today, an estimated $150 billion industry worldwide. It comes in two forms, labor trafficking and sex trafficking, but sex trafficking is much more prevalent here in the United States. Human trafficking activity has been reported in all fifty states, so the only way not to find human trafficking in your community is simply not to look for it.

This is a crime that can and does affect several levels and demographics in our society, but it frequently involves persons under the age of eighteen. The International Labour Office now estimates at least 5.5 million children worldwide are trafficked each year, continually suffering under violence, exploitation, and abuse.1 According to the U.S. Government’s assessment of victims’ profiles, as many as 50% of international human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child under eighteen.2 Domestically, as many as 1.6–2.8 million children run away each year in the United States.3 Within forty-eight hours of hitting the streets, a third of these children are lured or recruited by a trafficker into the underground world of prostitution and pornography. Out of the 18,500 cases reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2016, one runaway child out of every six was likely a victim of sex trafficking.4 Unfortunately, these numbers do not include the countless, unknown domestic victims trafficked within the United States that never get reported or rescued.

Human Trafficking in Texas

Human trafficking is a major issue in Texas. Because of its geographical location, large cities, tourism markets, interstate transportation, and international commerce, the state is ripe for human trafficking activities. Between 2007 and 2016, almost 3,000 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. According to a recent study released by The University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work, Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, there are an estimated 313,000 victims of human trafficking in the state of Texas.5 Of these victims, approximately 79,000 are minors being exploited through sex trafficking. Even though the foundation for federal and state anti-trafficking legislation has always been victim-centered, more recently, assistance for victims’ rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration into society has become a challenging aspect of local programs and social policies. This victim-centered approach is crucial to the success of any anti-trafficking effort. Sadly, there are less than 1,000 beds in residential facilities to assist these victims nationwide.6

Human Trafficking in Lubbock

Recent local human trafficking statistics also highlight the need to address this issue. Out of the 254 Texas counties, Lubbock County remains very active in human trafficking case filings. Over 50 cases were filed in Lubbock County District Court for Trafficking of Persons and Compelling Prostitution in fiscal year 2016, representing almost 35% of the total reported similar cases around the state. In 2015, the number of sex-trafficked victims presenting at Voice of Hope (Rape Crisis Center) in Lubbock was eighteen; four of these cases involved children, ages fourteen through sixteen. In 2016, Voice of Hope reported fifty-five human trafficking victims with 24% of them being children. Most adult victims are indicating that they were either abused or trafficked as children. With less than thirty-five beds available for child victims in the state of Texas, OneVoiceHome’s mission is as critical as ever.

Victims’ Needs

The devastating effects of this crime on its victims are severe and varied across the victim population. There is no single profile for trafficking victims; trafficking occurs to adults and minors in rural, suburban, or urban communities across the country. Victims of human trafficking have diverse socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented.

While human trafficking spans all demographics, there are some circumstances or vulnerabilities that lead to a higher susceptibility to victimization and human trafficking including runaway and homeless youth, foreign nationals, or individuals who have already experience violence and trauma, including victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, conflict, or social discrimination

The needs of victims of trafficking are among the most complex for crime victims. Girls who have been domestically trafficked experience severe physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual repercussions from the trauma of sexual exploitation. Victims often present with the following health-related issues:

  • Physical health problems associated with beatings and rapes, including broken bones and the need for wound care.
  • Reproductive health problems, including exposure to HIV and other STDs, pregnancies, and fertility issues.
  •  
  • Mental health problems, including PTSD and somatic complaints (headaches, chronic

pain) resulting from the trauma, and others listed below.

  • Alcohol and other drug use, as well as addiction.

Victims will also show signs of the following mental health conditions resulting from repeated abuse:

  • Extreme anxiety and fear; despair and hopelessness.
  • Changed relationships with others (including the inability to trust).
    • Self-destructive behaviors (including suicide attempts).
    • Changed feelings or beliefs about oneself (including profound shame and guilt). • Changed perception of the perpetrator (including establishing a trauma bond).

These girls need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally, and these girls need a new identity separate from their life as a trafficking victim. Based on our research, the long-term services provided to these young women are non-existent in our area and are limited around the state. In some runaway and homeless youth shelter programs, the time restrictions on the length of stay imposed by funding sources make it impossible to begin any meaningful treatment. Additionally, the diversity of the minors in shelter programs and group homes make it difficult to tailor services for a specific population. Within juvenile detention facilities, treatment plans are often aligned with the criminal charges—often crimes unrelated to prostitution (e.g., curfew violations, truancy, shoplifting, runaway)—and, therefore, they are ineffective in addressing the real issues facing these victims. For minors placed in foster care or group homes, once again, the sexual exploitation is often not recognized, and, therefore, the trauma and related problems are not treated.

The History of OneVoiceHome

In 2011 Voice of Hope (Lubbock Rape Crisis Center) and Forensic Nurse Staffing of West Texas noticed an increase in the number of children presenting in the emergency room with “red flags” of having been sex trafficked. In that same year, 53% of Voice of Hope’s sexual assault cases involved children under the age of 17 years. With the help of the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) and Forensic Nurse Staffing of West Texas, Voice of Hope spearheaded a local task force to assess Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) in Lubbock and the surrounding rural communities. This task force was comprised of representatives from several offices, agencies, and associations throughout the Lubbock community.

The task force met monthly to discuss the issue of human trafficking, and eventually, a decision was made to conduct a community needs assessment to garner information from the local community about their knowledge of DMST and explore the various needs that this issue presents for our area. The Community Needs Assessment confirmed the documented statistics and reflected 73% of those who responded to the survey were seeing signs of sex trafficking.7 The survey also revealed a gap in services for victims of DMST here in West Texas. There was no place to offer help to the girls apart from the juvenile justice system.

Fighting to make a difference, community leaders Peggy Galanos, Kim Stark, Gloria Toti, Laura Pratt, and Terisa Clark founded the nonprofit organization called OneVoiceHome. This nonprofit organization is a key piece in a collaborative effort to combat DMST in Lubbock and the surrounding areas. Their mission is to provide a safe home for restoration and new beginnings for sexually exploited girls.

OneVoiceHome is a long-term home. The girls will grow up and transition to adult life in our program. They will become “our girls,” and we will be involved with them throughout their lives, including their rescue, rehabilitation, and restoration. 

In 2018, OneVoiceHome secured the purchase of an existing 150-acre campus in the West Texas Region. The campus has 20 buildings including a range of residential facilities that will allow all phases of the program – from intake cottage to independent living apartments. In addition, there are recreational facilities including a gym, a pool and great spaces for intellectual, artistic and spiritual components of the program.

The board of OneVoiceHome is currently working to sustain and begin improving the campus in preparation for opening. The board has set 2025 strategic plan and is now seeking to hire key staff positions of an Executive Director and Program Director. These staff members are essential in securing the funding and program design needed to ensure success.

Join them in the fight against the trafficking of young girls. Your support will help break the chains of sexual exploitation and bring about rescue, restoration, and a new beginning that will benefit countless victims and their community.

+ How to Stay Safe Practice Tips to Protect Yourself Online. Valuable information for every single one of us.

+ Human Trafficking by the Numbers: The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas 2016by the University of Texas at Austin Institute of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault. In some ways this is outdated, especially their statistics on the numbers of girls affected, but it’s full of valuable information across the board.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

1 International Labour Office (ILO), International Programme on the Elimination of Child
Labour (IPEC), Training Manual to Fight Trafficking in Children for Labour, Sexual and Other Forms of
Exploitation, Textbook 1: Understanding Child Trafficking (Geneva: International Labour Organization,
2009), 22, retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.unicef.org/protection/Textbook_1.pdf.
2 U.S. Department of Justice, Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons in Fiscal Year 2003:2004, United States Department of State (2005). Trafficking in Persons Report. Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/47255.pdf.
3 Hammer, H., Finkelhor, D., & Sedlak, A. (2002). Runaway/thrownaway children: National estimates and characteristics. National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART Bulletin Series). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
4 Retrieved March 3, 2017, from http://www.missingkids.org/1in6.
5 Noël Busch-Armendariz et al., Human Trafficking by the Numbers: The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas, The University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work, Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (December 2016). Retrieved March 3, 2017, from http://sites.utexas.edu/idvsa/files/2017/02/Human-Trafficking-by- the-Numbers-2016.pdf.

6 Reichert, J., and Sylvestrzak, A. (October 2013). National survey of residential programs for victims of sex trafficking. Retrieved from http://www.icjia.state.il.us/assets/pdf/researchreports/nsrhvst_101813.pdf.

7 Lubbock Rape Crisis Center. (2012, January). Community Assessment Committee Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. Retrieved from http://www.voiceofhopelubbock.org/assets/community_view_final_report_lbb.pdf.

  • : Jacqueline Beretta & OneVo!ceHome