By U.S. REP. KAY GRANGER
Eight years ago, I met a 19-year-old girl while traveling in Moldova – a small, former-Soviet country in Eastern Europe. This young girl was abducted while working in a Turkish marketplace and sold into sex slavery. After some time, she gained the courage to escape and climbed out a seventh-story window to get out of the building where she was being held hostage. On the sixth-story balcony, she slipped.
Turkish authorities found her lying on the street, her back broken. She was paralyzed and in need of spinal surgery, a diagnosis that in Moldova meant she’d never walk again. Working with the Texas Back Institute, who took her case free of charge, I was able to arrange for her to be brought to Texas to receive the medical treatment she needed to walk again.
Sadly, this teenager’s story of abduction is shared by at least 800,000 men, women and children worldwide every year. Roughly 75 percent of these victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, while others are trafficked for labor.
Sometimes issues that span across a number of countries and exist on nearly every continent become easy to pass off as an international problem, not a local one. Unfortunately, here in Texas, human trafficking is very much a local issue, as potential victims in border states are more vulnerable to being pulled into this terrible industry.
In Texas, 740 girls a month under the age of 18 are documented as being marketed for sex, according to the Dallas Women’s Foundation, and North Texas has been identified as a key hub for traffickers moving victims through the Interstate 35 corridor.
Our law enforcement has worked hard to combat this illicit trade, but more can be done with the support of the public and Congress.