Sunday, 15 May 2011
Human trafficking victims get trapped between law, lawless
by Sarah Forgany
SAN ANTONIO -- It's hard to imagine that even today, some people are being held as slaves. But it's happening in places you would least expect, in neighborhoods and businesses. It's happening to women, girls and boys who are forced into a merciless life of sex slavery every day.
A 40-year-old mother says she was made to live just that kind of life.
"One simple rape can make you feel it's better to be dead than think the rest of your life you were raped by different men," says the woman.
We'll call her 'Jane' since she doesn't want to reveal her identity.
Jane says she was forced to have sex with strange men repeatedly.
She arrived in San Antonio several years ago from Honduras as a 33-year-old single mother. The only thing she wanted was to provide for her children, but instead, she says, she found herself trapped between the law and the lawless.
"It's easy to make you fear that you're going to lose everything that you have accomplished by coming here. I was afraid," Jane said.
Jane says she was lured by a young, attractive woman in her 30's, but that friendship was short lived.
"She kidnapped me. She threw me in this room with someone who's naked," said Jane.
That was the first time Jane recalls being raped. She says the woman took her to a house on the west side of San Antonio, locked her up, and threatened to turn her over to immigration authorities, even hurt her child, if she didn't do as she was told.
According to Jane, the threats and forced sex lasted weeks, as the woman and her trafficking ring collected thousands of dollars from rich businessmen.
Jane's horrifying story is only one of thousands emerging from a multi-billion dollar business.
"This is the vilest of crimes because it takes away human dignity, repeatedly," State Senator Leticia Van de Putte says.
Van de Putte has been a tireless voice in the fight against the sex trade, a cruel world where a victim can make more than a $100,000 for her pimp every year, and the younger the girl, the higher the price.
"What we have to make sure of is that the shackles that are put on our women and children and those that are victims, are taken off," said Van de Putte.
Human trafficking victims have many faces. All too often they are children and teens who run away from broken homes. Traffickers prey on their vulnerability and coerce them into prostitution.
Nearly 200,000 victims travel through Texas every year, with the I-10 corridor serving as one of the main routes for human traffickers in the country.
"What we want to do is make sure human traffickers know that Texas is closed for their seedy business," said the senator.
That closure means the introduction to unprecedented human trafficking laws in Texas like Van de Putte's Senate Bill 24.
The law makes prostitution of a child a first degree felony, allows for an automatic life sentence for subsequent convictions, and requires a human trafficker to register as a sex offender.
But, while this new law may be a milestone in combating human trafficking, many challenges still lie ahead.
"It's not as cut-and-dry as robberies, and it involves many moving pieces," said an undercover detective with the Bexar County Human Trafficking Task Force.
The detective told KENS 5 they investigate several human trafficking cases every month, but it often takes years to build one case before it has a chance in the courtroom.
"We have to build a case from the ground up to verify any information we've gotten from victims," he says.
To this day, Jane's case remains under investigation. The pain is still vividly etched on her face with wounds that she says will never heal.
"I don't want anyone else to go through that, to have someone raping you. It's horrible," said Jane.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked, you are urged to call law enforcement immediately, or the Bexar County Human Trafficking Task Force at 210-335-6070.
Posted by Irishgreeneyes at 18:40