Notes on: Students, Houston, and Sex Trafficking

Conversation today in my Introduction to Women’s Studies class ended up going to the topic of Houston being one of the number one places in the United States for sex trafficking, which I knew about.

What I did not know was the extent of the problem and how it touches their everyday life. I had the idea the problem was mainly connected to the port and all of the ships coming and going/or something like that.

Students in my class shared an every day fear of being kidnapped at the mall, at Walmart, walking to/from class, walking outside of their homes, interviewing for a job, etc. In past semesters, we have often talked about “what do you do on an everyday basis to avoid being raped or assaulted.” Typically, male-identifying students saying “nothing”/”it’s not something I think about.” Female-identifying students have long lists that include having pepper spray at the ready, having a gun, etc.

Today, as a result of these topics my students brought up, I asked, approximately, ‘What do you do to avoid being kidnapped into a sex trafficking ring?” And the students had all kinds of things at the ready, such as checking their car and making sure no one is in the backseat, being careful of social media, purposely looking un-feminine, never going anywhere alone, avoiding certain areas of stores, etc.

Several students reported receiving regular letters in the mail or email with modeling opportunities, which they took as possible traps/warning flags of sex trafficking.

What you learn sometimes!

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda