Area nonprofit says human trafficking a problem even in East Texas

Area nonprofit says human trafficking a problem even in East Texas
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 5:59 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 at 6:59 PM CST
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - An area nonprofit organization wants East Texans to know that human trafficking doesn’t just happen somewhere else, it can happen here as well.

With January designated as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, The Family Crisis Center of East Texas wants to make East Texans aware of what can happen.

“It’s a problem here, it’s a problem everywhere,” said Maria Villarreal, Human Trafficking Specialist for The Family Crisis Center of East Texas.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reports in Texas in 2021 their hotline received 3,534 reports of human trafficking. Out of that number 661 of those reports were for sex trafficking, 131 were for labor trafficking and 51 were for both sex and labor trafficking. Out of those cases, 758 were female victims and 137 were male victims.

Villarrealsaid human trafficking needs awareness.

“People still have this misconception it’s only done through kidnappings and abductions, which it does happen unfortunately, but that’s not what we tend to see. We tend to see that the traffickers are family members can be a boyfriend, girlfriend, it can be anybody,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal said sometimes it’s hard for a person to realize they are a victim of human trafficking because the signs are very similar to domestic violence or sexual assault. She said a lot of times, human trafficking starts out with these two crimes but evolves.

She said some signs that you are a victim of human trafficking are: You are not free to come and go as you please, someone is withholding your documents such as IDs or a passport, you were recruited under false promises, you were made to live in your working environment or if you are not paid or paid very little.

“It’s very important to educate the community about what it really is so that way they can properly identify a victim when they see one and properly report it,” Villarreal said.

“It’s very important to educate the community about what it really is so that way they can properly identify a victim when they see one and properly report it,” Villarrealsaid.

The local human trafficking hotline is 1-800-828-7233.