How High School Students Are Changing Education to End Human Trafficking — and So Can You!
Human trafficking happens when one person is controlled through violence, deception or coercion in situations of commercial sex, forced labor, or domestic servitude. It is frequently thought of as a foreign issue in far-off countries, but due to a large interstate and highway system, Texas is a hub for this horrific system here on our own soil. Earlier this year, a study conducted by the University of Texas’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault estimated more than 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas alone.
A host of organizations are doing incredible work to end human slavery, but the Nest Foundation piloted a unique approach of training high school students to avoid being trafficked, and to effectively stand up to instances of trafficking in their communities. We at Deeds Not Words partnered with the Nest Foundation in hosting student-led panels on this issue last year, and one thing became imminently clear: the students who had undergone Nest’s program felt their lives had been changed by this program, and they felt similar education should be available to every student across our state. We seized the opportunity to do just that.
Through a sequence of trainings at four different high schools across Texas, we’ve taught students how can use their voices to make change. As a part of these trainings, students from Ann Richards met with State Senator Judith Zaffirini’s staff to provide input on Senate Bill 2039, which seeks to develop a program and training for public schools on the prevention of sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
We’ve worked with these students as well as groups from Skyline High School, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy and Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership Middle School to help share their stories in support of this bill’s passage, training them in the key elements of how to effectively influence elected officials to bring about the change we wish to see.
The steps are more simple than you’d think, and the students are already putting them to good use in this legislative session.
We taught our young #ChangeMakers how to frame their legislative outreach by creating a sense of urgency, including a specific ask, and asking for their representative’s help.
See how Denise mastered this below*:
Under Senate Bill 2039, the movement would be to educate teenagers about the human trafficking dangers and related issues. Even though Texas is the second highest state for human trafficking, the issue is being brushed off to the side.
A majority of human trafficking cases begin with children and young people under 18; most are in foster care!
I understand that you are on the Senate Committee for Education, and education of teenagers can be integral for preventing sexual abuse and human trafficking. We really need your help in order to be steps closer to raising awareness and stopping this big issue. Please vote favorably for Senate Bill 2039, and thank you for reading and listening to my concerns.
Beyond framing for effectiveness, we also taught them how to tell a compelling story — to help make the issue real for a legislator who may not be an expert on this issue. What is your story and how does it inform your position on this issue? How does it fit into your core beliefs and values? Why do you think this is the right thing?
See how Le’Osha told her story*:
My name is Le’Osha and I am currently a [student] at Skyline High School. I am sending you this email to ask for your support on Senate Bill 2039. This bill is excruciatingly important because providing students with the ability to gain knowledge on human trafficking will help prevent themselves or others from being a victim of this form of abuse.
My friend’s cousin, who is now 26, was a victim of sex trafficking. She had been abused at home due to the alcohol abuse of her mother and decided to run away. This woman ran away to try and escape one terror to find herself caught in another one when she met a man who acted as if he cared for her. He then told her to be a part of his sex trade operation and would not let her leave. Over, 300,000 minors are victims of sex trafficking in just Texas alone. Please help me to get this bill passed to educate students and stop this illegal and horrific form of child abuse.
All of the children and teenagers who might become involuntarily involved in this, and even the ones already involved, are counting on your vote to save them from this traumatic experience. Please vote favorably for Senate Bill 2039, we need your help.
We at Deeds Not Words believe that you can be an activist at any age and that your voice is important. Activism isn’t only limited to reaching out to your legislators, and we encourage our #ChangeMakers to use various mediums to raise their voice and awareness for issues they’re passionate about. We’ll end with Skyline student Kierra Jones’s powerful spoken word piece to fight sex trafficking in Texas, across the States and everywhere. We hope it will inspire you to do the same!
If you are in Texas and interested in taking action on SB 2039, there is a hearing set for tomorrow morning on the 20th. Anyone in Texas should come and register their support! If you want to be involved and can’t make it to the Capitol, find your Senator here or contact the Education Committee directly at (512) 463–0355 to voice your support for human trafficking prevention education!
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*(Letters condensed for brevity and to protect the writers)