NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Estimates in Texas indicate there are roughly 234,000 victims of labor trafficking and approximately 313,000 victims of human trafficking in the state.
Two influential groups are raising awareness to the number one targets, teenagers.
"Human trafficking," said the Rev. Lorraine Brown, the associate pastor of Nacogdoches' First United Methodist Church. "It's not a good life. Don't let anybody tell you that."
Brown is on a mission set by the Texas Conference of United Methodist Women. She's enlightening teens about the dangers of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking is nothing but putting somebody in slavery," Brown said. "It is about making a profit at somebody else's expense. We have to go at all those things they do. And people really are put into forced labor."
Human trafficking awareness is also a project of the Texas Association of Student Councils, and high schools across the state are participating.
"High schoolers are more vulnerable, I think, as well as younger children, so they feel like this person really likes them when actually they're really controlling them," said Julian Estepp, the president of the Nacogdoches High School Student Council.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports the average age of child sex trafficking victims reported missing to the agency is only 15.
A PSA, which features actress Ashley Greene from the "Twilight" saga, depicts what it may look like when a child is being trafficked. The child in the video is still going to school but her behavior, clothing, and demeanor all change once she becomes a victim of trafficking.
"They like break down their self-esteem," said Diamond Smith, an NHS Student Council member.
NHS Junior Diamond Smith saw it happen to a Dallas acquaintance. Smith shared how observant and caring friends provided the rescue.
"They managed to help a young girl who lived next door to them, who was caught into it, human trafficking," Smith said.
If you see, tell is the advice from the Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
"Child sex trafficking is a crime that's committed in real life in plain sight, that provides everyone with an opportunity to recognize that somethings not right, something suspicious is occurring and to make a report," said Staca Shehan, the NCMEC executive director.
Ownership by a perpetrator won't be tolerated by churches and schools. Together, they're taking a once taboo subject into the open.
Human trafficking occurs in large cities and small towns. For more information on the warning signs of human trafficking, click this link. The National Center for Missing & Exploited's trafficking hotline is 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).