Tuesday, Texas Tech law students sat in on a human trafficking seminar to learn more about these complex cases, which are becoming more prevalent in the courtrooms.
According to the Texas Young Lawyers Association, in 2003, Texas passed legislation which criminalized human trafficking and was one of the first states to do so.
And though the state has been active in fighting the issue, human trafficking continues to affect our communities.
David Boatright, Executive Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children describes several warning signs that a child may have fallen victim to human trafficking such as sudden changes in behavior, like skipping school or tattoo branding marks. The agency reports that the average entry age for victims is 12 to 13 years old and 1 out of 3 runaways are lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours.
"Every day of the week, 24 hours a day, we track down and locate missing children," says Boatright. "Runaways are a big concern."
C.E. Rhodes Jr., President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association says it is his personal mission to raise awareness about human trafficking.
"I watched the movie, Taken a couple of years ago," says Rhodes. "I sat back and thought, you know, what if this was my sister?"
Rhodes warns that we should be aware that these kinds of crimes are happening right here at home. "It's not just the big cities, it's places in West Texas, here in Lubbock," he says.
Rhodes is working to educate young lawyers to look more closely at sex crime cases, such as prostitution. According to Rhodes, "When we see a young woman on the street that is arrested for prostitution, then we start to ask (if she could be the victim of sex trafficking.)"
He says that good lawyers should "ask the probing questions and to look at them as a victim."
Right now, there is a lot of discussion over how a former or current sex trafficking victim engaging in prostitution should be tried. Currently, those over the age of 18 who are arrested for prostitution face criminal penalties.
The film viewed at Tuesday's seminar, Slavery Out of the Shadows is available at www.tyla.org.
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