Houston is known as the hub of sex trafficking, sharing its border with Mexico, which is a well-known route for international traffickers. Motel 6 at Spring stands just opposite a school in Houston, Texas. The two-star hotel has been accused by most of its customers of being used in criminal activities including trafficking, prostitution, promotion of prostitution, compelling prostitution, and illegal drug offences – all of which are in violation of Chapter 125 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
Just in front of the hotel, there is a restaurant and super shop, including a nice neighbourhood. A mother shared her daughter’s story with us, who got forcefully involved into prostitution when she was only 13.
The girl, who is now a 15 year-old, comes from a well educated family. Currently, she's struggling to overcome drug addiction and is also a victim of sex trafficking. “My daughter became friends with someone much older than her over social media who took her to this motel and exploited my daughter,” informed the victim’s mother.
“She became addicted to drugs and ran away from home, along with her friend. She was a pretty good student and I never thought that she'd become a victim of trafficking,” she added.
Representatives of different organizations in the United States of America, however, could not provide national statistics of trafficking in person, but were able to identify how traffickers get access to victims and become the “masters of manipulation” in order to use the victims to make more money in the billion dollar industry for sex trafficking.
Pimps usually use the curiosity of teenagers. Their tendency of getting more attention and becoming “cool” in the eyes of peers sometimes throws their entire lives at risk. Many children get into trouble while trying drugs like weed or alcohol or partying which are in fact, the easiest ways for pimps to trick and get these children involved in the business of drugs and prostitution.
One in six of such missing children, who are reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2016 were likely victims of child trafficking, among which 86% were in the care of social services when they went missing. In the streets of Los Angeles, free tabloids with adult advertisement offering massage or asking people to “enjoy with beautiful girls” in discount are common. Moreover, social media and the internet are both quite popular for buyers and traffickers alike.
“Most of the American kids run away from home when the mother gets a new boyfriend or partner who wants the kid out of the house, or are being abused by other family members” said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of Administration for Children and Families while explaining how families become dysfunctional. This plays a vital role in making way for traffickers as these children are vulnerable and keep looking for love which they miss in their families. Elijah Rising, an anti-trafficking organization explained the six step model to manipulate and bring children into sex trafficking.
With the help of social media, traffickers build their trust by becoming the victim's friends, introducing them to drugs and alcohol, isolating the target child and pulling them away from friends and family. They slowly get these children involved in partying and forced pornography which helps traffickers to continue blackmailing them, eventually assisting them to sell these children for sex.
According to Elijah Rising, sexual exploitation makes up for 79% of nationally reported human trafficking while 1 in 3 cases is sexual trafficking.
“Pimps and victims both use hashtags, such as #lonely or #lonelygirl or use different social media tools to track down their targets for trafficking by building trustworthy relationships online,” explained Sam Hernandez, Social Enterprise Director at Elijah Rising. “Victims fail to realize how easily they become the targets of such pimps.”
Besides using the social media, traffickers also use innovative ways to reach their goals by offering better opportunities like jobs such as modelling, false promises of love and care and so on.