Leslie Timmons, the Education director at Voice of Hope, said when tackling the issue, it is important to know what it is, and to educate people on what it looks like.
“It’s just now coming into the forefront because people are talking about it. People are realizing it’s here in Lubbock. We’re educating people that are working with sex trafficking victims. We’re making progress but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Timmons said.
She says sex trafficking does not always look like what you think, she said traffickers are not necessarily the kidnapping pimps you see in the media. In order to combat it, it’s important to know what it does look like.
“It could be somebody that looks like me or, you know, anybody that you see on the street,” Timmons said.
There is manipulating and grooming for months at a time.
"Traffickers can take all the time in the world that they want to groom children, a lot of times on social media,” Timmons said.
Most often, it happens through social media, and over a long period of time. It can happen when children and teens are vulnerable, sharing too much information online.
Timmons said parents need to know how social media works. Have your children give you their password, and know who they are talking to online.
That includes Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, even gaming systems. Timmons said traffickers are now showing up on Fortnite.
“It’s really the typical kind of Stockholm Syndrome that you see where the trafficker brainwashes them into thinking they have a relationship and they are going to be in love and they are going to have a life together,” Timmons said.
Before they know it, the victim is in this life, and cannot find their way out.
“The victim thinks they are in love with their trafficker and they say, ‘You know, I need help paying rent or I need help with some money, would you do this for me? Maybe just dance one night at a strip club,’" Timmons said.
People tend to think Lubbock doesn’t have to deal with “big city” problems like trafficking, but Timmons said West Texas is a perfect storm, with our big industries and disposable money.
Because of this, she said it’s important to educate people about the realities of sex trafficking in our region.
“Anybody that has direct contact with youth, it’s very important to educate those people to recognize the signs and ask the right questions,” Timmons said.
Voice of Hope is dedicated and committed to educating people on sex trafficking and sexual assault. All of the services they offer are free. They have a hotline available 24 hours a day.
If you would like more information about Voice of Hope, click here.