SAN ANTONIO – There's been an estimated 846 percent increase in reports of child sex trafficking in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015, making it the fastest growing crime in the world, according to a study from the University of Texas at Austin's Insitute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Those numbers are why the federal government has distributed grants to many states to address the rampant problem.
In the last few months, the Texas governor's office has funneled that money to South Texas agencies.
The same UT Austin study found there are currently 79,000 young adults and minors being sex trafficked in Texas, and that Texas has the second most reports of child sex trafficking in the nation.
About 88 percent of them are from the foster care system, according to SJRC Texas, formerly called St. Jude's Ranch for Children.
The residential foster care campus in Bulverde houses sex trafficking victims, which is why in October, the governor's office gave the organization a hefty two-year grant.
"Some of our girls as they have been found, they have been sold multiple times a day for sex, thinking that the pimp is their boyfriend," said SJRC Texas CEO Tara Roussett. "It takes time for them to realize, 'This wasn't someone who loved me, doing this to me. I was a profit for them.'"
Roussett said the main change being made is the screening process.
"Every child that comes in, there's a screening tool that once we realize there is a concern for child sex trafficking, them being a victim of that, we immediately bring in the intensive care therapy.
SJRC is one of the only centers in the state that takes in pregnant or parenting trafficking victims and the government funding takes that into account.
"Get them their medical, dental. If they're pregnant, get their child taken care of, getting themselves taken care of and then just starting that healing process," Roussett said.
The grant also helps pay for 24/7 staffing.
"These kids wake up in the night. Bad things have happened. So we have somebody there for them all the time. We have someone there to help care for the babies when they wake up all night," Roussett said.
After the first 90 days, the girls and their children are able to enter a longterm program and stay as long as they need.
"Maintain them being healthy and out of that cycle. Education is huge. We make sure our girls are going to school every single day. We have a school on site," Roussett said.
They learn how to hold a job and manage money, but most of all, how to have healthy relationships.
"They do not trust, because every adult in their life has hurt them," she said.
Roy Maas Youth Alternatives also has a facility that takes in trafficking victims.
Centro Seguro is a 24/7 drop-in center for trafficked, homeless or runaway kids and teens.
Trafficking victims, or anyone who suspects trafficking, can call the National Human Trafficking helpline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
Look for signs of trafficking:
- Appearing malnourished
- Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
- Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
- Has a sudden increase in money, clothing, or things like jewelry. Has no explanation on how they got these things.
- Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
- Lacking official identification documents
- Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
- Working excessively long hours
- Living at place of employment
- Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as boyfriend or "daddy," which is often street slang for pimp
- Poor physical or dental health
- Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
- Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
- Small children serving in a family restaurant
- Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment - barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
- Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves