Attorney addresses human trafficking in Texas

President Donald Trump greets Holly Gibbs, a survivor of human trafficking and director of Dignity Health's Human Trafficking response Program, as his daughter Ivanka Trump greets Gary Haugen, CEO and founder of International Justice Mission, prior to the start of a meeting on domestic and international human trafficking on Thursday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. The issue of human trafficking was brought up at a recent lecture held by the Baylor Pre-Law Society and Baylor International Justice Mission on Tuesday evening in the Bill Daniel Student Center. Photo credit: Associated Press

By Rachel Smith | Reporter

Waco defense attorney and Baylor Law School alumnus Robert Callahan II told students about realities of human trafficking and his experience fighting it.

Baylor International Justice Mission and Pre-Law Society hosted Callahan Tuesday evening in the Bill Daniel Student Center. Callahan, who has prosecuted crimes, including those against women and children, said he wanted to get involved with International Justice Mission after he heard about the organization during his second year of law school.

“Little did I know God was going to create an opportunity for me to do that right here in Central Texas,” Callahan said. “One of the things I have the joy and opportunity to do is work with survivors of human trafficking and educate police officers, judges, community leaders and students such as yourselves in order to explain that this is happening not just globally, but it’s also happening in our community.”

Callahan defined human trafficking, which is a $32 billion market and the fastest growing criminal industry.

“If you have the recruitment, the harboring, the transportation, the provision or obtaining of a person for labor services or for sex services, and that is by fraud or force or coercion, then you have human trafficking,” Callahan said.

There are 30 million slaves today, a number that exceeds the number of slaves ever before in history, Callahan said. With 800,000 people trafficked annually, human trafficking is surpassing the drug industry’s growth, he said.

“A drug is consumed once you sell it, but a girl can be sold over and over again,” Callahan said. “A lot of dealers are actually switching to pimping.”

After Callahan showed a video about human trafficking and prostitution, Omaha, Neb., junior Cole Davis said he liked how law enforcement treated the girls as victims rather than criminals. Callahan said more than half the battle is educating law enforcement to understand that trafficked prostitutes are victims.

“[Prostitutes] are actually doing that against their will, or they’re being coerced into it, or they’re being manipulated into it, and somewhere there’s a pimp around the corner watching the whole thing, and that’s the bad actor,” Callahan said. “That’s who we need to focus our efforts on.”

Callahan said 20 percent of victims in the U.S. end up in Texas. Highway 10 is the top human trafficking highway in the country, and roads between Dallas, San Antonio and Houston create what is known as The Texas Triangle, Callahan said.

“That trip is ten hours and 25 minutes,” Callahan said. “That means in one day, a girl could be sold in all those three cities or any of the cities in between within ten hours.”

Callahan said traffickers target vulnerable people because of factors like history of abuse, poverty or lack of supervision. Trafficking occurs through a number of social media platforms.

“I can’t tell you how many cases we’ve had that emanate from Facebook,” Callahan said. “Anywhere there is Internet, there is an opportunity.”

Callahan gave the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 888-373-7888, for students to anonymously report suspicious activity. Red flags include tattoos or branding, sudden truancy and an older boyfriend or friends.

“They’re not necessarily dispositive, but if you see these things in combination, that might be something that‘s worth your attention,” Callahan said.

Davis said the numbers regarding trafficking in Texas and the U.S. stood out to him.

“We have such a huge opportunity to fix the problem because it’s such a big problem here,” Davis said.

Kansas City, Mo., junior Alexis Thomas said practical steps to solving the problem include spreading awareness.

“It starts with your friend group, and spreading that awareness across campus using social media and meetings like this to help other people get involved,” Thomas said.