Human sex trafficking is the illegal trafficking of humans for sexual exploitation. It is one of the fastest-growing criminal trades in the world with global profits of more than $99 billion, according to a 2014 report from the International Labour Organization.
D. Miller & Associates, PLLC is leading the charge to help human sex trafficking victims in Houston and nationwide. Individuals and entities that profit from the exploitation, suffering, injury, and death of victims should be held accountable.
Our sex and human trafficking lawyers are here to listen to your story and seek justice for you. We are here for you with confidential and compassionate legal representation. Please call D. Miller & Associates, PLLC at (713) 850-8600 to find out how we can help you.
Definition of Sex and Human Trafficking
The U.S. Department of State, defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, deception, or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.”
Several forms of human trafficking exist, including:
- Forced labor
- Domestic servitude
- Forced marriage, including child brides
- Organ removal
By far the most heinous of human trafficking acts is forcing women and girls, some younger than 12, into sex acts. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 80% of human trafficking victims are forced into sex work.
How Anyone Can Be a Victim of Human Sex Trafficking
Sex trafficking recruiters are everywhere. They target young girls, women, and transgender people. Boys and men are also targeted, although 99 percent of human sex trafficking victims in 2016 were female, according to the United Nation’s International Labor Organization. Many of these victims are stereotyped as runaways or drug addicts.
Human trafficking recruiters are always on the lookout for runaways; addicts; gay or transgender teens who have been abandoned by their families; and other social “outcasts.” They know the places where these victims tend to congregate:
- Bus and train stations
- Homeless shelters
- Parks and other public places
- Cheap hotels
- Truck stops and highway rest stops
- Shopping malls
- Low-income neighborhoods
- Places populated by migrant workers or those on temporary visas
Sex trafficking victims also include student-athletes, mothers, non-US citizens, college students, honor roll high schoolers, and many others. In short, human trafficking targets anyone at any age who can be used for profit by criminals, either sexually or through forced labor.
How Traffickers Find Their Victims
Traffickers lure victims through promises of paid trips, good-paying jobs, and psychological manipulation. They prey on universal human desires like love, acceptance, popularity, fame, and wealth.
Human traffickers seek as much information on their victims as they can to set them up in their trap. Traffickers use social media to get to know their victims and play on their weaknesses. Traffickers may also disguise themselves as potential romantic interests, photographers looking for models, or job recruiters.
From Classified Ads to Prowling Malls, Traffickers Hunt Victims Everywhere
Human traffickers use both simple and sophisticated methods including:
- Craigslist, Backpage, and “alternative” media—both print and digital
- Online search engines for companies that offer escorts, massages, “dates” and other euphemisms for sexual services
- Photography studios that promise to make victims into famous models
- Job postings that promise good-paying jobs and a chance to travel
- Personal ads on social media platforms, dating sites, and dating apps
- Hanging around groups of teens at the mall
- Loitering near schools
- Searching for victims on college campuses
In some human trafficking cases, it is the victim’s parent or other relatives who knowingly sells the victim for profit.
Human Trafficking Is Everywhere, and Thriving in Houston
According to UNICEF, there are 21 million human trafficking victims in the United States. The Trafficking in America Task Force estimates that 16.5 million people are in forced labor and 4.5 million are trapped in sexual slavery. About one in five of these victims are in Houston. There are many others in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and other places—large and small—throughout America.
The Statistics on Human Trafficking Are Staggering
- The United States, Mexico, and the Philippines are the top three nations of origin for human trafficking victims, according to the State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report.
- Ninety-nine percent of human trafficking victims are women and young girls.
- Profits are highest per sex trafficking victim in developed economies, such as Europe and the United States, because they can charge more, according to the International Labour Organization.
- There are over 9,000 illicit massage parlors in the nation that serve as sources for human trafficking; profits from these parlors are estimated at $2.5 billion, according to Polaris, the company that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
- Prosecutions for sex trafficking the United States are at an all-time low, per the State Department’s report.
- Human sex trafficking victims are more likely to be arrested for the crimes they are forced to commit than their captors, according to the State Department’s report.
- In 2018 alone, one in seven reported runways in the United States was likely a victim of child sex trafficking, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
- According to the FBI Report on Crime 2011, the average age of a child victim was 13.
How to Recognize Sex Trafficking
Human sex traffickers use various methods of recruiting. It begins with a process called grooming. Grooming is the method that traffickers use to control and manipulate a person into human trafficking.
Traffickers are excellent at targeting vulnerable people. They find the most effective way to gain the victim’s trust, either with tangible rewards like money, or through emotional rewards, such as attention. For example, a trafficker may appeal to a young woman by showering her with romantic affection. The trafficker will then ask her to perform sexual services for profit in return for this affection.
Common Industries and Places Where Human Sex Traffickers Search for Victims
Human sex traffickers are experts when it comes to finding potential victims. They look for those who need money or attention. They also know that certain industries have a higher rate of potential victims. These industries can include:
- Salon services
- Drug smuggling and distribution
- Domestic work
- Massage parlors
This is not a full list.
Grooming Is the First Step in Human Sex Trafficking
Although the specific actions are customized to lure different victims, traffickers usually follow a similar plan:
- Find a potential victim through social media or in person
- Gain the victim’s trust
- Support the victim’s needs
- Promise to fulfill the victim’s desires (for fame, shelter, money, love, or acceptance)
- Isolate the victim from friends, family, and law enforcement
- Force the victim into trafficking and keep the victim controlled with violence, drugs, psychological pressure, or a combination of tactics
How to Spot the Signs of Grooming
Young people who are socially isolated, or have poor relationships with one or both parents, or who lack any strong parental guidance are more at risk for human sex trafficking. They often do not understand the danger until it is too late.
That is why parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and other responsible parties need to recognize the common signs of grooming. These include:
- New items—often expensive—that appear out of nowhere. Traffickers tend to shower their victims with gifts, such as a new cell phone, clothes, and jewelry. Be on the alert if someone suddenly has nice, new things and will not tell you where the gifts came from.
- Abrupt mood swings or other changes in behavior. Traffickers are experts at manipulating the feelings and emotions of their victims. They begin with friendship or romantic overtures, and then slowly transition into demanding, aggressive behaviors. Their goal is to confuse and frustrate their victims.
- New, unknown friends and distancing from close friends and family members. Traffickers want victims who are isolated. They disrupt normal relationships the victim has with close friends and family members. Traffickers may persuade students to drop out of school and slowly demand that victims spend all their time with them.
Determining Whether Someone Is a Human Sex Trafficking Victim
Often, a victim slips from the grooming stage into active human sex trafficking without anyone noticing. There are warning signs of a human sex trafficking victim that you should know. It is better to be safe than sorry. Experts agree that a human trafficking victim’s life span decreases dramatically the longer they are forced into labor or sex services. In fact, according to the FBI Report on Crime 2011, the average life expectancy for a victim of child sex trafficking is only seven years.
Victims are terrified of retribution by their captors and are often too frightened to ask for help. You can help a victim of human trafficking by knowing—and acting on—these warning signs. The victim:
- Is always anxious and fearful.
- Avoids making eye contact.
- Is not allowed to be alone.
- Has no money or control of their finances.
- Is in a relationship with someone who is domineering and openly aggressive.
- Is secretive about where they live, work, or the exact nature of their relationship with their captor.
- Does not have identification (no ID, no passport).
- Cannot make appointments or commit to any activity.
- Shows signs of depression.
- Has unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, or other signs of physical abuse.
- Is afraid of the police.
- Refuses to accept help.
- Is believed to be performing sexual services or forced labor.
Typical Victim Profile for Human Sex Trafficking
While anyone can fall under the influence of a human sex trafficker, there are groups of people who are more vulnerable than most.
- Children or young women who are socially, financially, and emotionally isolated from family and close friends
- Impoverished women and children
- Children in child welfare, foster, and juvenile justice systems
- Runaways and homeless children and teens
- People with limited English or who may be illiterate
- Migrant workers including undocumented and temporary workers
- People with cognitive impairments or other disabilities
- Native Americans
- Foreign national domestic workers including those in diplomatic households
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people
Do Not Wait if You Suspect Sex Trafficking
If you have a child, sibling, spouse, partner, student, or friend who shows signs of being groomed or forced into sexual services or labor, do not wait. Call the police immediately. You should also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888 immediately to speak to a trained professional about what steps you should take.
Your next call should be to D. Miller & Associates, PLLC at (713) 850-8600. We will connect human sex trafficking victims to the proper agencies and organizations for their safety and protection. Our sex and human trafficking lawyers can help victims understand their legal options with a free and confidential case evaluation.
The Bad Actors Involved in Human Trafficking
Human sex trafficking is illegal in the United States and many other countries. People who are knowingly involved in the exploitation for profit of innocent victims are criminals. They can—and should—be held accountable for their actions with civil legal action.
Traffickers range from local small-time operators to highly sophisticated criminal organizations with international operations. Human sex trafficking is more lucrative than other criminal pursuits, including selling drugs or weapons. That is because human victims can be repeatedly sold, thereby allowing profits to accumulate throughout the length of slavery.
Exploiters, Enablers, and Buyers
Human sex trafficking is driven by a relentless demand for illicit sexual services and the immense greed of bad actors who make a fortune from human suffering.
Human sex traffickers can be divided into three categories: exploiters, enablers, and buyers.
- Exploiters are criminals and criminal enterprises that organize, implement, and profit from the sale of human beings.
- Enablers are individuals and companies who knowingly provide goods and services so that trafficking can take place.
- Buyers are individuals who knowingly purchase sexual services from human sex trafficked victims.
Why It Is Difficult to End Sex Trafficking
Sex traffickers work in the shadows all over the planet. In the United States, sex traffickers groom and obtain victims in cities and towns nationwide. The transient and clandestine nature of human trafficking makes it difficult for national and global law enforcement agencies.
Several factors make it harder for the detection and prosecution of sex traffickers:
- The underground nature of human trafficking and the sophisticated tactics of these criminals make it difficult to pinpoint the origin, transport, and location of victims.
- Some countries do not specifically prohibit or even define human trafficking.
- Sex trafficking survivors fear repercussions and rarely seek legal action against their captors.
- It is sometimes harder to distinguish human trafficking from illegal migration.
How We Might End Human Sex Trafficking
US §7101, or the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) addresses this issue in the United States. This law, passed in 2000, is the first comprehensive federal law to do so.
Under the TVPA, human trafficking is defined as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
The United States follows a program known as the “3P” formula to fight global human trafficking:
The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons office works with federal agencies, foreign governments, international organizations, the private sector, and survivors of human trafficking to enlist all segments of society in the fight against human trafficking.
Another Approach to Eliminate Human Sex Trafficking: End the Demand
Equality Now is a global non-profit organization dedicated to gender equality. They propose a solution that targets the demand for paid sex along with protection for trafficking victims. Their plan would:
- Criminalize individuals and entities who exploit people for profit, including traffickers, pimps, brothel-keepers, illicit massage parlor owners, and sex buyers.
- Decriminalize the acts and therefore the penalties for human sex trafficking victims who are forced or coerced into breaking the law.
Equality Now uses legal resources and frameworks to combat trafficking and other issues that threaten women and young girls worldwide. They believe that the recognition and preservation of victims’ rights under the law is an effective agent of social change.
At D. Miller & Associates, PLLC, our mission is to hold human sex traffickers accountable under the law.
Legal Options for Human Sex Trafficking Victims
In addition to filing criminal charges, a human sex trafficking victim can also pursue financial recovery with a civil lawsuit. Victims may be entitled to financial recovery for pain and suffering, medical bills, and other damages.
A sex and human trafficking lawyer with D. Miller & Associates, PLLC will pursue recovery on a contingency basis. We will hold companies and individuals who knowingly profit from human trafficking accountable for their actions.
You are invited to call our firm at (713) 850-8600 for a free and confidential case evaluation. All communication between a sex and human trafficking attorney and their client is privileged. You can be assured that we adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards of the law.
Backpage, Craigslist, and Other Online Human Sex Trafficking Enablers
Classified web advertising is a cheap and easy way for sex traffickers to recruit victims and attract sex buyers. Backpage and Craigslist were the most successful online classified advertising websites that featured “adult” sections. These sections were often graphic depictions of sexual services for sale.
Backpage launched in 2004 as an “alternative” newsweekly. The site ran in 97 countries and 934 cities worldwide. Backpage quickly became a multimillion-dollar profit maker for its owners, Mike Lacey, Jim Larkin, and Carl Ferrer.
Allegations of Profiting from Human Sex Trafficking
The owners and publishers of Backpage argued that these advertisements were protected by the First Amendment as free speech. Backpage also insisted that they were within the legal protection of the Communications Decency Act, under Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. They argued that the pages gave sex workers the opportunity to find clients in a way that was safer than walking the streets. However, by 2011, several groups began actively suspecting that Backpage was advertising sex services that exploited women and children.
In 2016, law enforcement raided the Backstage headquarters in Dallas and arrested Lacey, Larkin, and Ferrer on several felony charges including pimping, pimping a minor, and conspiracy to commit pimping. Additional charges were later filed and included money laundering and other crimes.
The Backpage Human Sex Trafficking Lawsuit
In 2018, the federal government ruled that Backpage was not protected by the Communications Decency Act because it not only published ads for sexual services with human trafficking victims but helped create the ads as well.
To date, many human sex trafficking victims have filed civil lawsuits against Backpage. There are Backpage human sex trafficking victims in many states, including Texas, California, and Florida. One lawsuit alone had 17 plaintiffs who alleged that Backpage was liable for sexual assault, battery, rape, and loss of life.
A Sex and Human Trafficking Lawyer Pursues Justice for Victims
If you or a loved one is a victim of human trafficking, you deserve the opportunity to hold all responsible parties liable. D. Miller & Associates, PLLC will help.
We may also be able to recover damages from businesses that chose profit over safety. Our team will aggressively pursue financial recovery for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages. A strong civil lawsuit is a highly effective method of holding these criminals accountable.
One Safe and Confidential Phone Call Is All We Need to Begin
If you have been the victim of sex trafficking, please remember that it is not your fault. What happened to you is the result of criminal behavior by a person or party who knowingly profited from your suffering. It is your right to hold these parties accountable.
You are not alone. Call D. Miller & Associates, PLLC at (713) 850-8600 and we will:
- Assess your situation and take steps to ensure your safety.
- Identify any perpetrators who can be held financially accountable, including your captor and other enablers who profited from your forced sexual services.
- Maintain your confidentiality and privacy with attorney-client privileged communication.
- Stand by your side during every step of the process, so you are never facing the defendant(s) or their lawyers alone.
- Protect your rights under applicable state and federal law.
- Connect you with social service and victim advocacy groups who can help you with shelter or housing, meals, mental health counseling, and other forms of aid.
We are here to help. Please call our firm for a free, confidential case evaluation. Our sex and human trafficking lawyers work on a contingency basis only.
We Seek Financial Recovery for Human Sex Trafficking Victims
We are dedicated to helping victims recover for the damages inflicted on them by their captors and other liable parties. We realize that there are devastating physical and emotional injuries because of human sex trafficking. Victims are usually left penniless and homeless. D. Miller & Associates, PLLC will use our expertise of the law to seek the maximum financial recovery.
You may be able to recover damages for the following:
- Medical bills for injuries as a direct result of coerced labor or sexual services
- Counseling services
- Lost wages for the time spent in servitude
- Legal fees if you were arrested while being forced to commit illegal acts
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Mental anguish
You deserve to know your legal options. Our law firm is ready and has the resources to fight for you. Please call D. Miller & Associates, PLLC at (713) 850-8600.
We Hold All Liable Parties Accountable
Human sex trafficking is usually a network of both criminal and legitimate businesses who are willing to look the other way for a profit. For example, a hotel that rents rooms to pimps for the purpose of child prostitution can be held accountable.
Parties who could be held accountable include:
- Hotels, motels, condominiums, or apartment managers
- Online companies, media, or classified advertisers
- Truckstop companies
- Massage parlor owners
- Taxi or car services
Our sex and human trafficking lawyers will seek to identify those individuals or entities who knowingly profited from forced labor or sexual services. It is our hope that by helping victims, and seeking a financial recovery, we will shine the light on this vast criminal enterprise.
We Help Human Trafficking Victims Nationwide
You do not have to live in Houston or the other areas that our law firm serves. D. Miller & Associates, PLLC helps sex trafficking victims nationwide.
Our promise to you:
- Uphold the highest standards of client confidentiality and privacy
- Keep you updated and informed at each stage
- Protect your rights throughout the process
- Pursue the financial recovery you deserve
Please call (713) 850-8600 for a free and confidential case evaluation.
What We Can All Do to Stop Human Sex Trafficking
If you suspect that you or a loved one is being groomed for human sex trafficking, report it at once:
- Call 911 for immediate help from your local police.
- Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free, 24/7 at 1 (888) 373-7888 (you may remain anonymous).
- Text HELP or INFO to the National Trafficking Hotline SMS by entering 233733 on any cell phone.
- If you suspect that a minor is being trafficked, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 422-4453 to speak with a professional crisis counselor or report suspected abuse. You can also call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1 (800) 843-5678.
You may also call D. Miller & Associates, PLLC at (713) 850-8600. Our sex and human trafficking lawyers will guide you to proper agencies if you are trying to break free from your captor. We will make sure you are safe and Protect your legal rights.
Other Ways to Fight Human Sex Trafficking
Take a Picture of Your Hotel Room
An effortless way to help catch human sex traffickers is to take photos of your hotel room the next time you travel. Traffickers often post photos of their victims in hotel or motel rooms for social media or classified advertisements. TraffickCam.com is a database of hotel rooms from around the world that investigators can search to find victims. Law enforcement can use these photos as evidence.
The Exchange Initiative created TraffickCam in 2015. This non-profit is committed to supplying resources, information, and a network of advocates to combat child sex trafficking and exploitation.
TraffickCam is a free mobile app that is easy to download and can help save lives.
To download the free TraffickCam app, choose the option for either Apple or Android devices:
Support Human Rights Groups and Victim Support Services
Equality Now is a global charitable organization that fights human trafficking and other human rights violations that target women and young girls. You can learn more about them here: www.equalitynow.org
The Polaris Project has one of the largest databases in the nation that helps law enforcement agencies and social services assist victims and survivors. To find out more information about this non-profit agency, click here: polarisproject.org
Get a Free, Confidential Case Evaluation
Our sex and human trafficking lawyers are ready to help you. Please call D. Miller & Associates, PLLC for a free and confidential evaluation.
Related Frequently Asked Questions
- How Do You Know If You’ve Been Injured By a Defective Medical Device?
- What Does the USC Sexual Abuse Settlement Cover?
- What Happens If You Can No Longer Work After a Car Accident?
- Do You Have To File a Lawsuit To Recover Damages From an Auto Accident In Texas?
- How Long Do I Have To File A Lawsuit After A Truck Accident In Houston?