World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, observed July 30, is intended to raise awareness of this serious global problem. There are an estimated 234,000 victims of labor trafficking and 79,000 victims of youth and minor sex trafficking in Texas at any given time, according to data from the 2016 Statewide Human Trafficking Mapping Project for Texas (PDF).
This year’s theme, “Victims’ Voices Lead the Way,” focuses on the victims of human trafficking to help establish effective prevention measures.
“This year, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is focused on the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking,” said Brandi Soules, HHSC Texas Human Trafficking Resource Center (THTRC) program specialist. “This focus is paramount in the everyday work of THTRC.”
HHSC created THTRC to connect agency staff, health care practitioners, community members, other stakeholders and potential victims to local, state and national resources. In 2020, the center published the Provider Guidebook: Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in Texas (PDF).
To better educate health care professionals, House Bill 2059, from the 86th Legislature in 2019, requires HHSC to review training courses on human trafficking and to post a list of approved trainings on its website. Completing an approved course is a requirement for registration, permit or license renewal for certain health care practitioners.
“Trainings are reviewed and approved in accordance with HHSC Human Trafficking Training Standards, which require trainings to be designed with survivor consultation,” Soules said. “Survivor input in the design of human trafficking trainings allows for a trauma-informed and survivor-centered approach in health care providers’ response.”
HHSC will soon release the Hearing, Evaluating, Activating, Resourcing & Training (HEART), a THTRC-developed online human trafficking training which meets all the approval requirements and will be available to all practitioners at no cost. THTRC is also accepting applications to review training courses developed by external organizations through its website.
HHSC is dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking while empowering survivors. During the 40th anniversary of the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in April, THTRC and the HHSC Family Violence Program (FVP) screened a human trafficking survivor’s documentary and hosted an expert panel discussion.
“It was such a remarkable experience to work with incredible women in victim services,” said Verenis Amezcua-Cafege, FVP program specialist. “Their passion, motivation and commitment to assisting survivors during a pandemic is really inspirational to me. Without collaboration with local agencies around Central Texas, we could not have been able to perform such robust community outreach and education about human trafficking and family violence.
“It was truly an honor to work with them and a great reminder of why I do this for a living. Being prepared to recognize and respond to human trafficking in a victim-centered way is critical when operating human service programs.”
Soules also represents HHSC on the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinating Council, which evaluates all human trafficking awareness programs administered by the state and developed a strategic plan (PDF) that the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force is now implementing along with a webinar series.
To learn more, visit the THTRC webpage.