The Family Crisis Center of East Texas hosts ‘End To Human Trafficking’ event in Lufkin

The Family Crisis Center of East Texas hosts ‘End To Human Trafficking’ event in Lufkin
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:11 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 11:51 PM CST
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, but in order to recognize it, one must be educated on the signs.

The Family Crisis Center of East Texas hosted an “End To Human Trafficking” event Tuesday at Louis Bronaugh Park in Lufkin to help provide some of the needed education.

Brandi Barnett, a treatment director at Light of the Pines, said one of our greatest tools in combating trafficking is to educate children on what it is.

“One of the things is we don’t talk about it at all here. It is very much a secret which is important for traffickers. If they go to communities where they are not known about, it’s a lot easier for them to take advantage of vulnerable children,” Barnett said.

According to the U.S. State Department, victims are not always hidden behind closed doors and are often in plain sight. Some key red flags are signs of physical abuse and poor hygiene, the victim is unpaid or paid very little, or the victim has an inability to speak to an individual alone.

“We can educate kids when they know what trafficking is when they know what to look out for and when to speak up to say something. When they have people who are looking out for them and have eyes on them. When kids feel loved, when they feel valued, they are no longer an easy target for these traffickers,” Barnett said.

Maria Villarreal, a sexual assault human trafficking specialist, said the crime is highly under-reported because survivors often do not speak out about their victimization due to fear.

“Sex trafficking is happening here. Not to scare anybody, but we do need to have these conversations to give it less power and to call it for what it is,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal said it is very important to be in the fight against domestic violence and sexual assault because often they are linked.

“A lot of the clients that I see that were trafficked they disclosed to me that well prior to my victimization of being trafficked I was actually sexually abused or physically abused by my dad, my uncle, my mom, somebody that the victim knew and that creates a vulnerability that traffickers will prey on,” Villarreal said.

If you believe someone or something suspicious is happening in the community do not intervene with the victim and the trafficker and instead report the activity to your local law enforcement and call the national human trafficking hotline.

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