January is human trafficking prevention and awareness month

"It's a horrible crime, I can't think of too many crimes that are worse than this. People need to be aware that it's out there and it is in our backyard,"

VICTORIA, Texas – January is human trafficking prevention and awareness month. With Texas ranking number 2 in human trafficking cases nationwide, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is hoping to shine a light on this grim reality for those who are victims of human trafficking making the fight against human trafficking a priority striving to improve awareness, service, and prevention efforts to eradicate human trafficking in Texas.

Human trafficking, as defined by U.S. law, is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor against their will. Blanca Denise Lance is the Director of human trafficking with Texas DFPS and says that human trafficking occurs everywhere.

“It happens everywhere. In small rural communities, the large urban areas, and the suburban areas as well,” says Denise Lance.

There are 3 types of human trafficking. The first is sex trafficking, where victims are forced to engage in sex acts for someone else’s commercial gain. The second is forced labor where victims are compelled to work for little or no pay. The third type of human trafficking is domestic servitude, which is where victims are forced to work in isolation and hidden in plain sight, examples can be housekeepers, nannies, or other domestic help. Victims of human trafficking can be anyone, from young children to the elderly, across a wide range of demographics.

“It really can look like anyone, and that’s why I think what we work with human trafficking awareness month is to raise that awareness. It’s happening right before you and you may not even recognize it or see it,” says Denise Lance.

Texas DFPS’s human trafficking awareness and prevention month has events all through the month of January. From a ‘wear blue day’, a week of prayer, to online seminars to educate the public. To learn more about the events DFPS has for human trafficking awareness and prevention month click here.

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Data on human trafficking in Texas in 2019.

Victoria County Sheriff Justin Marr says that the issue is widespread.

“I think this type of crime has increased nationwide all over. It’s a horrible crime, I can’t think of too many crimes that are worse than this. People need to be aware that it’s out there and it is in our backyard,” says Sheriff Marr.

With such a complex issue Sheriff Marr says that if something feels off, don’t hesitate to reach out to law enforcement, you might just be saving someone’s life

“If they see something strange or unusual or they suspect some kind of activity like that don’t turn a blind eye to it. Contact law enforcement and let us look into it,” says Sheriff Marr.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office released a documentary about human trafficking in Texas. You can watch the free film online here, and for additional resources on human trafficking click here and here.