Group tries to raise awareness about human trafficking in Houston

September 19, 2013 8:17:06 PM PDT
Houston making the top a not-so-great list. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Houston is one of the nation's largest hubs for human trafficking. And one organization is doing what it can to shine a light on the problem often left in the shadows.

The group is holding a three-day summit to organize what it calls warriors in the fight against human trafficking. They tell us many of the victims are too afraid to escape, for fear of deportation by authorities or violence at the hands of their captors.

You've likely driven by them. The signs say "Studio," "Lingerie Modeling," even "Stress Relief." But the group Elijah Rising says they're all the same thing: Houston brothels selling enslaved girls for sex.

"The Ship Channel area is a huge hot spot. The Galleria area, just south of the actual Galleria, is probably the epicenter for human trafficking," Elijah Rising Mobilization Director Adam Chaney said.

Chaney directs bus tours to show Houstonians just where this is happening. Elijah Rising says it has rescued 12 girls so far and identified 300 suspected trafficking locations in Houston alone.

Helping are people like former human trafficking bodyguard Ohad Shaul, who wants to expose the atrocities he saw.

"They get sold 10 times a day, on a good day. On a bad day, they'd get sold 20 or 30 times a day," Shaul said.

Victims include women smuggled from Southeast Asia, South America and Mexico. There are an estimated 21 million human trafficking victims in the U.S. Houston is one of the top cities for the crime.

"The I-10 corridor here has been labeled as part of the No. 1 human trafficking corridor in the nation," said Mike Book, the Homeland Security assistant special agent in charge of our area.

And those who know say the life that awaits them is a living hell.

"I wouldn't say the living condition of a dog because your dog you take out once or twice a day," Shaul said.

In 10 years, the U.S. Attorneys Office says it has rescued 500 human trafficking victims in Houston. The average age of girls entering the industry is 13. After that, their life expectancy is just seven years.

Find Katie on Facebook at ABC13KatieMcCall or on Twitter at @13katiemccall

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