Tuesday, dozens of North Texans will travel to Austin for a rally, asking for legislation to protect victims of sex trafficking and inspire harsher punishment for traffickers.
"This is an opportunity for us to educate lawmakers; many of which are new," advocate Glenna Pendleton said.
Pendleton is the founder of the Sex Trafficking Education and Awareness Movement (STEAM).
"The reason that I got involved is because a member of my family was trafficked back in 2015," Pendleton said. "At that time, I didn’t even know what the word trafficking was."
After rallying on the steps of the state Capitol, the group will visit legislators to urge them to make human trafficking a priority during the 86th Legislative Session.
"It’s not a hard sell. Once someone understands the issue and I think the point is they need to understand that it is right there in front of us and it hides right there under the surface of what we see,” Pendleton said. “I think this one trip will make a big impact. We are catching the legislative session early.”
The Children at Risk organization recommend the following policy changes:
• Increase prevention education in schools with a focus on gender equality, bodily autonomy, and online safety
• Increase buyer diversion and education program
• Increase prosecution and penalties for sex buyers
• Provide a Set Aside for victims of human trafficking to overturn convictions for prostitution and related non-violent crimes victims committed while trafficked
• Treat prostituted individuals with a victim centered approach
• Decrease criminal penalties for prostituted individuals and increase exit services
• End prosecution of minors for prostitution and increase holistic services for child trafficking victims to include long term health care, housing assistance and job placement
To report a trafficking related tip or crime individuals should call their local police department, Traffick911 at 817-575-9923 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Victims and survivors can text HELP to 233733 (BEFREE).