Target on modern day slavery

Students get informed about human trafficking through film screening

Catherine Herndon and Annalisa Perales

Jessica was 13 when she walked into a house owned by friends — only be tied to a bed and raped repeatedly by two men. She fought endlessly for days against the numerous other men who bought her until they started drugging her to keep her from fighting. 

January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Del Mar College hosted Vikings VoiceUp to help battle and abolish modern slavery. Vikings VoiceUp hosted a pizza and movie event on Jan. 30 where they showed “Be the One.” The movie documents the experiences of victims and those who chose to speak up. 

Victim advocate Debra Garcia, with the Corpus Christi Police Department, wants to bring awareness to students, especially those going into the fields of law enforcement, social work, nursing and counseling crime victims.

“A lot of times we don’t know that a person is coming forward because of a sexual assault or even an assault is actually a victim of human trafficking until we learn the sign, and we learn how to question and to read the person and read what’s going on with them,” Garcia said.

In “Be the One,” Jessica sits in a dark room to tell her story. Her head is shaved nearly to her scalp, she’s wearing masculine clothing and upon first look, you think a man is sitting there. 

She begins to tell her story with strength, but when she starts speaking about the details, the struggle to contain her emotions shows. Her lips tremble as she tells her experience of being handcuffed to a bed and raped repeatedly by unknown men.

According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, 79,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking in Texas at any given time.

“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and it is happening all across Texas to thousands of men, women, and children,” according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Garcia said people need to be aware and if they see something that looks strange in their neighborhood, there may be a bigger issue. She urges people to pay attention and always ask questions, and always feel free to reach out to different agencies with your concerns.

The stories in the movie come from wealthy neighborhoods, including The Woodlands, and areas closer to the border such as El Paso. Trafficking happens in all types of neighborhoods — to the wealthy, poor and everyone in-between.

Jessikah Gutierrez with the Coalition for Crime Victims Rights encourages people to be on the lookout for any signs, and to be aware of their surroundings.

“Human trafficking can happen in any neighborhood, house in a neighborhood and people are coming out at different hours of the night,” Gutierrez said.

According to the the Department of Defense, 234,000 people in Texas are trafficked for labor at any given time. Twenty percent of people trafficked are children.

Jessica stands in front of the house where she was raped. She is dressed in her Timberlands, with her blue button-down shirt, shaved head with tattoos peeking out of the collar of her shirt. Her persona is every bit tough, but as she looks at the house where she was sold and trafficked, her eyes fill with tears. She hides her face to hide her pain.

Jessica is just one story of millions who are enslaved worldwide. She’s one of the lucky ones because someone else chose to “be the one” and speak up.

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