Human trafficking is a global problem described as modern-day slavery. Victims can be forced into prostitution or made to work against their will. Cases in the United States are on the rise with the highest numbers in border states.
CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports on how advocacy groups in Texas are fighting back.
Meet Allison Franklin, an outspoken advocate for human trafficking victims. Herself, a survivor.
Her story of abuse started at the age of three. Repeated rapes destroyed her trust in others, set her on a path of self-destruction and left her vulnerable to sex traffickers.
“For me I was already in the game, in the life, before I was ever trafficked and actual gang members would be ordered to kidnap me, force me to prostitute, rape me, beat me and I would run, and this went on for several months, the same cycle over and over again […] and my real trafficker pretended to rescue me from them,” Franklin shared.
“I often considered myself lucky if he just beat me beyond recognition. He always made good on his threats. He threatened my family, my grandmother. Eventually in 2011 he stabbed me.”
One Texas advocacy group estimates a quarter of all U.S. human trafficking victims have, at one time or another, been located in Texas, either passing through or held here long-term. Data show there are more trafficking victims in Houston than any other city in the nation.
“For me it’s the city and its culture, of the objectification of women, and I’m sorry,” she began, tearing up. “The fact that it’s okay to buy people, buy women, men and children. I don’t think that is okay that people are for sale.”
Houston also has logistical benefits for traffickers. The city hosts many conventions and sporting events. It’s crisscrossed by highways, close to international ports and the Mexican border.
Houston is not shying away from the issue. An anti-trafficking campaign includes providing shelter for victims, training city officials to spot signs of abuse, and multi-media messaging to the public.
“When we saturated the market in that five month period, for two months we really hit it hard, cases confirmed by trafficking increased by 61 percent,” Minal Davis, Special Adviser to the Mayor on Human Trafficking, in Houston, said.
Houston is making advances, but crimes are still under-identified. Across Texas, it is estimated there are more than 300,000 victims.
Allison has taken up art. Her paintings express the pain of her eight-year ordeal. She managed to escape a life of exploitation, and today dedicates her time to raise awareness and change public perception about survivors like her.