ABILENE, Texas — Jan. 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, part of a month dedicated to sharing the signs of human trafficking in an effort to cut down on the growing crime. In 2020, there was a total of 987 human trafficking cases reported in Texas according to a data report from The National Human Trafficking Hotline.
“Traffickers know how to exploit people and they know how to look for vulnerable populations so whether it’s a homeless youth or someone that's lacking the basic necessities from housing to food those kind of things they know what to look for,” Beyond Trafficking founder, Stephanie Andrade-Rocha, said.
Beyond Trafficking is an organization dedicated to help survivors of human trafficking with resources as well as empower them. Andrade-Rocha said traffickers target their victims when they are the most vulnerable.
“The definition for human trafficking is force, fraud or coherent so whenever the use of force, fraud or coherent happens to somebody when they are forced to do something against their will and against their ability then that's when human trafficking takes place. The two most common are labor trafficking or sex trafficking,” Andrade-Rocha said.
Social media is a common tool predators use to hunt for their victims. Abilene Police Department's Cyber & Youth Division Sgt. Joshua Davis said one of the primary things when chatting with strangers online is to be careful and not trust the person on the other side of the screen and overshare personal information.
“Making sure you're aware of who you're talking to online, realize that people who are engaged with human trafficking use lies and deceit to try to make you feel at ease and comfortable and then, once they kind of get you in their clutches, or get you where you feel comfortable, then they start exploiting you,” Davis said.
He said most of the time, people online are not who they portray and a common tactic predators use is creating a fake profile in order to gain the victim's trust.
“Be cognizant of who you're talking to online, be aware that people may not have the best intentions that you talk to. We hear about “Catfishing” a lot and that can lead on to other things such as human trafficking,” Davis said.
If you are a human trafficking survivor or would like to help victims, visit beyondtrafficking.com