AUSTIN, Texas -- In Texas, there are currently more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking, and nearly 80,000 of them are children. New legislation signed into law this week hopes to go after online sex traffickers and boost protections for human trafficking survivors. But, some survivors say more work needs to be done.
- Texas establishes law targeting sex traffickers
- UT study says women of color disproportionately affected
- Survivors say much work remains
The Links, a service nonprofit consisting mostly of women of color, held a rally Wednesday morning to raise awareness about the issue in the state, as well as shed light on a statistic members of the group have long suspected. A University of Texas study this year shows how sex trafficking disproportionately affects Latinos and African Americans.
“You don't see a lot of women of color that are coming up as survivors, and so that made it the road a little treacherous,” Sophia Strother said."I just didn't want to be a statistic."
Strother is a survivor of child sexual abuse and familial sex trafficking as a child. For years, she said she had identified as being "currency," but she learned to thrive. Strother shared her personal experience during the rally to offer hope.
“I don’t care what it takes, I need to be heard and seen that I made it and that you can make it and it doesn’t matter when you make it. There’s no timeline for healing. There’s no timeline for that,” she said.
The demonstration with activists and elected leaders at Austin City Hall came a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed several bills into law aimed at helping survivors of sex crimes. Strother said the recent legislative action was a start.
"It's an epidemic, just like domestic violence is an epidemic. There's just no one cookie cutter way. The great things that the state is doing is, you're chipping away at it. Here are different facets that will help this along,” Strother said.
Allison Franklin, another survivor who spoke out during the rally, was wrapped up for years in the criminal justice system, while being trafficked.
“These are vulnerable populations that we're criminalizing for their own victimization, and so this is a critical step that we need to take, because we have to focus on the demand of purchased sex," Franklin said. "The victims, historically are criminalized and arrested, while those that are actually fueling the illicit sex market walk away."
"The survivors at the rally believe telling their stories will make a difference.
“It’s incumbent upon us to be a voice so that they can know that there’s others that are willing to help,” Strother said.