Special to the Courier
Human trafficking is a serious and nuanced epidemic that affects millions across the globe—and here at home.
With January designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Family Crisis Center of East Texas seeks to raise awareness of this heinous crime in the local community by hosting a free film screening of the Surviving Sex Trafficking documentary at the Pines Theater on Tuesday, January 24. Doors open at 5 p.m. with light refreshments, and the program begins at 6 p.m.
Human trafficking is defined as a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex, according to the United States Department of Justice. Victims are manipulated through a third party for money or gain by force, fraud, or coercion.
Texas ranks second in the U.S. in human trafficking cases, and according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, sex trafficking is the most widely publicized form of human trafficking. If an individual is compelled to work in commercial sex through the use of force, fraud or coercion, it is human trafficking. Child abuse, or engagement of anyone under the age of 18 for commercial sex, is also human trafficking–regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion plays a role.
These types of crimes span all segments, including age, socioeconomic status, nationality, education level, and gender. Victims exist in cities, suburbs, and rural areas in all 50 states and most countries worldwide. There is no typical victim.
The populations most vulnerable to trafficking include undocumented immigrants; runaway and homeless youth; victims of trauma and abuse; refugees and individuals fleeing conflict; and oppressed, marginalized, and impoverished groups and individuals.
“Sex and labor traffickers target people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage or other forms of control and manipulation to keep the victim involved.
“More often than not, victims are unaware that they are entering a human trafficking situation. They think they are going to a new job opportunity, meeting an intimate partner, or even going on a vacation,” said Whitney Burran, executive director of the Family Crisis Center.
Directed by and featuring award-winning filmmaker Jain monk Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, Surviving Sex Trafficking follows the journey of trafficking survivors, their conversations with other victims, and trips to women’s shelters worldwide.
It’s an intimate look at how the survivors escaped, learned to survive, and how they continue to grapple with repressed trauma from the horrific events they experienced.
The screening is part of the agency’s month-long awareness campaign, Things Aren’t Always What You See.
“The goal of this campaign is to open the public’s eyes to the problem of human trafficking in our community, bring to light the plight of trafficking victims, and spotlight the availability of resources and support services for those in need in the East Texas area and beyond,” said Burran.
The awareness event is free and open to the public, and appetizers and drinks will be provided. The Pines Theater is located at 113 S. First St. in downtown Lufkin.
If you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking, call the Family Crisis Center hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week for free and confidential help, 1-800-828-7233 or send a text to 936-552-9256.