An estimated 18,000 victims of sex trafficking are brought into the United States every year. I recently discovered that Texas is “home” to 25% of these international victims, with the majority of these being brought into our home city of Houston. This does not include the estimated 200,000-600,000 men, women, and children who are domestic victims of trafficking.
These women are often raped multiple times, forced into addictions to be better controlled, then sold repeatedly on a daily basis. The abuse is as much mental as physical, and many of these girls, after years in the trade, will return to their handlers voluntarily due to intense brainwashing. When I first heard these statistics, now a resident of Houston, I was incredibly moved. I had no idea that Texas was considered the epicenter of human trafficking in the United States, or the I-10 corridor the most heavily traveled thoroughfare for traffickers and victims. Yet when I looked at this “shining city” with its gyms, restaurants, mega-churches, malls and museums, it was hard to even comprehend the incredible abuse happening here.
Then I was told that out of an estimated 200+ brothels in Houston, 120 are known locations to the police, local public, and Houston trafficking ministries. These locations take on the form of cantinas, spas, modeling studios, adult galleries, strip clubs and private establishments with their prime advertising taking place on the Internet. Specific websites are dedicated to the advertisement, review, and sale of victims of human trafficking.
Last Thursday the YWAM staff, along with a short term team visited 4 of these 120 brothels. At the time, our only goal was to pray and intercede at each location. For some reason, despite hearing these statistics, being on location was a true awakening. The first 24-hour “spa” was called ‘Babylon’ and was located in a Hispanic area, with a security camera out front. The door had a sign that read “ring bell for service” and the windows were completely covered. Probably the most gut wrenching was the metal fenced in area behind the business with wooden paneling and a large wooden shed. The rest of the locations were similar, with covered windows and cameras out front.
David and I hope to become more involved with a local ministry called ‘redeemed’ (http://www.redeemedministries.com) here in Houston. Their mission is to “meet the needs of victims of the human trafficking industry in the greater Houston area.” As you pray for us and the city of Houston, please include the thousands of human trafficking victims that we are driving by daily. Pray that the church of America would wake up out of apathy and become active for the oppressed and voiceless. I also encourage you to look at your own city. How can you get involved in “setting the captives free”?
(a photo of a local brothel)