Human trafficking numbers in Texas are among the worst in the nation so San Antonio area nonprofit organizations are becoming part of the effort to bring awareness to the crime and provide services to victims.
The Rape Crisis Center in San Antonio has served survivors of sexual violence for more than 40 years; and collaborates with law enforcement to offer a safe haven for anyone who has been a victim of rape.
When a victim is assaulted and has a rape test done, the Rape Crisis Center sends an advocate to the hospital for support.
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"We receive, about average, three calls a day to send an advocate to the hospital. So it’s a real problem in our community," Carmen Vasquez, clinical director for the Rape Crisis Center, said.
The center provides free and confidential counseling, support and educational tools. Vasquez said the collaboration is part of their fight against human trafficking.
“We have been collaborating with San Antonio Police Department in a federal grant to provide intensive case management services, counseling services and also to put on a yearly conference to bring awareness and education to our community, and to our social service provider, our hospital staff and everybody that can come in contact with a survivor,” Vasquez said.
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Younger Women's Task Force San Antonio is another local organization that provides victims with support. The organization was created in 2016.
Executive director Shenee Simon said they are already embedded in the community to educate people on how to fight human trafficking.
“Our organization in a national level AAUW (American Association of University of Women) has a national coalition partnership with the National Council for Jewish Women, who have taken a very active role about putting tool kits and resources about, How do I identify human trafficking? How to prevent human trafficking and just to bring about overall awareness to both men and women about these issues of human trafficking,” Simon said.
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Another organization that fights against the epidemic is the Freedom Youth Project Foundation, but their approach is data-based.
“We spent a lot of time going through case after case of trafficking incidents across the U.S.," Saul Castellanos, CEO of the Freedom Youth Project Foundation, said.
Castellanos said that research gave them a better picture of the patterns and trends that traffickers use.
“Traffickers are very skilled in the manipulation and their control, but you can actually disrupt it by taking away the surprise," Castellanos said. "We teach children how they approach someone. What kind of lies they tell."
Castellanos said they have hosted more than 200 events to spread their information to churches, businesses and schools.
"Traffickers have found ways to quietly and almost totally completely invade our home life, our school life and the youth culture," Castellanos said.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-373-7888 to speak with a specially trained anti-trafficking hotline advocate.
(Infographic below details more on human trafficking. Click here if you can not see the infographic.)