While sex trafficking may seem like a foreign problem far from your neighborhood, Houston teens are reportedly being targeted right here at home.
Industry workers and recovery volunteers say girls targeted by a sex trafficker often believe the person is someone they can trust; pimps and recruiters know how to spot a vulnerable girl based on everything from how she carries herself to a social media presence.
Sometimes, they even meet the girls at school, the mall or local events, first often befriending the teen before moving on to dating or selling her.
Studies show predators looking for teen girls know how identify their desires, whether that’s a best friend, a modeling or singing opportunity, a boyfriend or security from a troubled home life; young people often share this information through social media, where criminals are waiting to make an entrance.
After the predator gains the teen’s trust, it reportedly becomes easy for the pimp to take control and lure her into a dangerous situation, and, soon, the girl is being sold for sex against her will – a thing many say they never saw coming.
In Houston and across the nation, prostitution hot spots are growing, where pimps frequently threaten violence against the girl and/or her family if she doesn’t comply; the man or woman looking to engage in a sale may even assault the victim before making the offer.
The average “John,” or sex buyer as they are known to police, paying for sex with trafficked children is a 40-year-old man, but they can be anyone from your soccer coach, teacher, a member of law enforcement, military personnel or local minister.
“I didn’t touch her or give her money. She initiated every bit of it,” a Spring-area John said in an interview the Houston Chronicle after being busted for his purchase by police. “Initially, I made a poor decision, but I tried to correct it. Why can’t you let a guy have a break?”
Like pimps, sexual predators may be the guy you invite to your barbecue or give your prayer request, but, behind closed doors, they’re exploiting children.
Study conclusions are the same: without a demand for stolen children, sex trafficking would lose its appeal. Pimps sell children because it pays well, and there are always buyers, especially around events, like the Super Bowl, including the one in Houston this year.
So, in sum, are the teens in your life at risk?
Analysts say ‘yes.’
Talk to your loved ones about sex traffickers, and if you or someone you know needs help in Houston, there are organizations here to help.