Child sex trafficking in Texas is the issue that requires high attention and investigation. The human trafficking is considered a public health emergency as the outcomes are costly to the healthcare and justice systems, and it needs to be investigated on various levels to prevent such cases and eradicate the issue worldwide. Understanding of the primary risk factors and revealing areas that are the most exposed to child trafficking can help to develop a strategy to fight against it. Moreover, more severe legal penalties and educational programs can contribute to the reducing the amount of victims.
Defining human trafficking and determining its primary types help to gain a deeper understanding of the subject. The United Nations defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt” of the children with the primary purpose of exploitation for sex or labour (Davis, 2017, p.7). There are two primary types of trafficking: labour and sex trafficking. The first one refers to the exploitation of the human resources for labour purposes as they are not getting enough compensation to survive or working conditions are not satisfactory. Sex trafficking means a commercial sex act in which a person under 18 is forced to perform such an act (Morrison, 2018). According to Morrison (2018), around 20.9 million people are getting trafficked worldwide. In Texas, over 300,000 are being trafficked, and 79,000 out of them are youth that is being trafficked for sex (Morrison, 2018).
There is a difference between commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and child sex trafficking (CST) (Kellison & Torres, 2019). Scholars explain that commercial exploitation can occur in various forms, such as prostitution, pornography, and child sex tourism (Kellison & Torres, 2019). It refers to the exploitation for economic gain and also includes situations in which a child is sexually abused. Hence, CSEC is considered as sexual abuse in all the forms. Child sex trafficking refers to transportation, transferring, or harbouring an individual; hence, CST prepares children for abuse.
Therefore, understanding the differences between CSEC and CST can help in further research. The study conducted by Greenbaum, Dodd, and McCracken (2018) aims to discover CSEC and CST to develop a screening tool to identify victims. Children from 12 to 18 years participated in the cross-sectional survey in which victims of CSEC/CST were compared with similar-aged patients without CSEC/CST evidence with allegations of acute sexual abuse (Greenbaum, Dodd, & McCracken, 2018). The research examined the medical and reproductive history, high-risk behaviour, and mental health symptoms. The results reported a significant difference in two groups based on the listed factors, and a 6-item screen was constructed. Scholars concluded CSEC/CST victims differ from ASA victims without evidence (Greenbaum, Dodd, & McCracken, 2018). Hence, CSEC/CST victims are identified in a high-risk population by the 6-item screen, which can be used in further research.
Understanding of how trafficking can be performed is vital for the ability to develop preventive measures. There are two possible scenarios of child sex trafficking. The first scenario occurs with people outside of the United States, who are smuggled to the United States and sold for sex (Morrison, 2018). The second scenario occurs with the United States residents, who are being kidnapped in a public place, and then sold for sex. Some researchers share the opinion that children become victims when they appear in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they compose a perfect victim, who becomes an innocent and unwilling participant (Morrison, 2018).
Contrastingly, other groups of researchers discover risk factors that increase the likelihood of minor sex trafficking. Some researchers discover risk factors associated with domestic minor sex trafficking. Domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) is one of the types of human trafficking. It refers to the commercial sexual exploitation of minor American citizens. The study conducted by McCoy (2017) investigates risk factors that may predict DMST and found that homelessness, history of child sexual or physical abuse, belonging to the minority group constitute the primary factors. However, the listed factors remain hypothesis and have not been validated, which requires further investigation.
Other researchers examine urban areas to determine the influence of socio-demographic neighbourhood variables to establish the framework of crime opportunities. The research used various tests to analyze the distribution of sex trafficking offences recorded between 2013 and 2015 in Austin, Texas (Mletzko, Summers, & Arnio, 2018). The analysis determined that sex trafficking offences are associated with interstate highways and cheap hotels. Variables such as distances from the local truck stop did not have such a significant influence on sex trafficking. Consequently, researchers concluded that the social environment is highly associated with the risk of children becoming victims.
Kellison and Torres (2019) found that commercial trafficking does not vary much by region; however, the services are different. They conclude that regions such as Rio Grande Valley lack needed resources and cultural competency. The state understands the need to discover such regions to strengthen the safety and implement preventive programs that would focus on establishing healthy relationship education and training for youth (Kellison and Torres, 2019). They point the necessity to start intervention early to reduce the risk of putting children at risk for sex trafficking. An early intervention, along with the well-developed educational programs, can help to reduce the consequences of child sex trafficking. Moreover, it is crucial to determine the level of awareness of the situation related to the sex trafficking to correctly address the main issues associated with child sex trafficking and to have an ability to reduce the percentage of victims.
Even though thirteenth amendment banned human trafficking, involuntary servitude remains an issue and require attention from police an government. Hence, the United States government implements severe penalties for individuals who are found guilty in promoting human trafficking. If the person is convicted of a human trafficking involving sexual abuse, the penalty is higher and usually means the life in prison (Davis 2017). In the case of child sex trafficking, the minimum penalty is 10 years in prison. Moreover, Texas has its own laws regarding human trafficking that hope to reduce the number of victims among children.
The Dallas area is considered an area that recorded one of the highest numbers of child trafficking victims. FBI officials initiated various operations of the victim recovery, which implies the removal of a child from trafficking, and recovery continued in North Texas (Ramirez 2019). Therefore, child trafficking requires attention on various levels, especially in the legal and healthcare system. The partnership of both systems can help to improve the situation on one side by reducing the number of victims and help to recover victims.
Children exploitation can lead to unfavourable consequences and influence the further development of the child, which creates challenges for the healthcare system. Another issue that is associated with the child sex trafficking is difficulty in dealing with victims as a transition to the normal life may be complicated. Healthcare professionals emphasize the impairment of mental, physical, and cognitive health among victims that can make it challenging to help such patients. Therefore, the government needs to develop and promote recovery programs that would help victims to make the transition to recover more quickly.
Fedina, Williamson, and Perdue (2016) concluded that there is not enough sufficient knowledge about child trafficking. Scholars used Respondent-Driven Sampling (RDS) in five cities and examined 115 participants, which constituted 48.3%, have been identified as potential child sex-trafficking victims (Fedina, Williamson, & Perdue, 2016). Fedina, Williamson, and Perdue (2016) aimed to find what risk factors are associated with child sex trafficking and whether any group differences exist in risk factors between domestic child-sex trafficking victims and non-trafficked adults engaged in the commercial sex industry. They discovered that victims were more likely to be in the racial or social minority than non-trafficked adults. Such findings can help juvenile justice agencies to better understand the risk factors and associations with them to investigate the issue further.
Children sex trafficking remains the major concern on legal, social, and healthcare levels that require further investigation and attention. The studies that examine risk factors associated with sex trafficking can help to discover and eliminate areas that are more predisposed to the trafficking. As Texas remains a state with one of the highest numbers of victims, the state implements laws and programs that help to deal with existing issues. Educating society to raise awareness and developing programs that help victims to recover can contribute to the improvement of the situation in various areas in Texas.
Davis, N. (2017). Human Trafficking Laws in Texas & Sex Crime Defense. Web.
Fedina, L., Williamson, C., & Perdue, T. (2016). Risk Factors for Domestic Child Sex Trafficking in the United States. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Greenbaum, J. V., Dodd, M., & McCracken, C. (2018). A Short Screening Tool to Identify Victims of Child Sex Trafficking in the Health Care Setting. Pediatric Emergency Care.
Kellison, B., & Torres, M. I. (2019). Texas is getting serious about stopping sex trafficking, but we need more resources. IDVSA Editorials & Op-eds.
Mletzko, D., Summers, L., & Arnio, A. (2018). Spatial patterns of urban sex trafficking. Journal of Criminal Justice, 58.
Morrison, K. (2018). Texas Foster Care Service Providers’ Awareness and Perceptions of Human Trafficking and Related Risk Factors Among Child Welfare Involved Youth. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Web.
Ramirez, D. (2019). 9 children recovered in North Texas from human trafficking operations, FBI says. Web.