Fort Bend County raises awareness of human trafficking
The Fort Bend County Task Force for Prostitution Prevention hosted a Summit on the issue of Human Trafficking on Friday, February 21, 2014. The event was held to raise awareness of the presence of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking activity in the Fort Bend area as well as the broader community by shedding light on the modern-day subtleties surrounding the issue. With more than 250 attendees, the event was one of the largest gatherings of legislators, service providers, law enforcement, health care providers, educators, social service workers and child advocates in the region.
Conference topics included a legislative update from State Representative Dr. John Zerwas, District 28; service providers Lindsey Speed of Traffick911 and Emily Waters of Freedom Place who spoke on the coercive conditions often leading young men and women to fall prey to traffickers; and the judicial challenges faced by prosecutors and the court system in an overview from Harris County Associate Judge Angela Ellis, who oversees a GIRLS court program in the 315th Juvenile District Court. Additionally, the audience heard the compelling story from author and human trafficking survivor, Holly Austin Smith, who told her story from her perspective as a 13-year old trafficking victim.
The County hoped to not only increase awareness among those in attendance but also gain the support of those who come in contact with victims yet remain unaware of the underlying situation causing their involvement with the system in which the victims often find themselves.
Audience members were invited to share information about their agency’s services or programs addressing this issue, including a report from Senator John Cornyn’s office on pending legislation aimed to strengthen the laws surrounding human trafficking. According to 434th District Court Judge Jim Shoemake, “the insidiousness of this crime is fueled by social media and adult entertainment advertising of young people, and the predators who know just how to find them.”
The Fort Bend County Task Force for Prostitution Prevention was formed to address the county’s response to legislation requiring counties with a certain population to establish prostitution courts and rehabilitation programs.
To see highlights from the summit, view the video clip at HERE.
For additional educational opportunities on human trafficking, stay tuned to the Fort Bend County website for information on the Crime Victims Response Team conference coming October 29-30.
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