Human sex trafficking is becoming a problem in Dallas-Fort Worth, Alan Schonborn, vice president of program development for All Church Home for Children, said in a panel discussion on campus.
Schonborn, along with four other local human trafficking experts, presented information and stories about local human trafficking on Wednesday.
Human sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring and trading of people who are forced into having sex by others, according to the ACH website.
The panel discussed why human trafficking is a growing issue and why it occurs.
There are 6,000 cases of child abuse in Texas, Schonborn said, and these children are more likely to run away. One-third of the children who run away are approached by sex-traffickers.
The panel discussion was hosted by the Honors Cabinet, which consists of 13 students in the Honors College.
Hannah Paul, a senior international politics and French double major, organized the panel.
Dr. Sophia Grant, a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Hospital who specializes in treating victims of domestic minor sex trafficking, said 28 percent of victims have contact with medical professionals while being trafficked. However, only 3 percent of medical professionals receive training that would help them recognize the signs of a sex trafficking victim.
Deena Graves, founder of Traffick911, an organization that focuses on preventing, rescuing and restoring American children being sold into sex slavery, told one victim's story.
While running away from an abusive home, a girl met a man who forced her into the car where he and other men raped her. Graves said raping a sex-slave after kidnapping is often called “seasoning.”
The girl was then forced to hitchhike to Houston, where she was sold out of an 18-wheeler's cabin and forced to sleep in the bed of the truck for days. The girl was eventually arrested and put into juvenile detention.
When she tried to tell the guards that she was forced into slavery and raped, the guards thought she was lying.
Traffick911 caught wind of the girl's story and had her tell it to the North Texas Human Trafficking Task Force. They said her story was too detailed to be false, and she was released from juvenile detention.
Vanessa Bouché, a political science professor at the university, said some states don't have tough penalties for traffickers, and 23 states in the nation do not have victim assistance because of lack of funds.
Law enforcement often don't receive the proper human trafficking training and treat those forced into trafficking as offenders rather than victims, Bouché said.
Laura Demoss, a coordinator for the North Texas Human Trafficking Task Force, said a couple ways college students can help raise awareness about human trafficking is to donate money and raise funds for organizations that help prevent human trafficking.
Students should also get educated about the topic and sign up to work with either local or student-run human trafficking organizations, Dr. Bouché said.
First-year film major Abel Perez-Arita said he did not know much about human trafficking before attending the panel.
“It’s hidden and it’s creating a paradigm, something that really isn’t a lie, a myth that’s being perpetuated in society," he said. "I think people need to be aware so we can confront things in an honest, sincere mater.”