HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Would you know a modern-day slave if you saw one? One group says that most people don't know how to identify human trafficking victims and that needs to change. Child advocates say that spreading awareness is part of the solution. However, the problem in the Houston area, one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the U.S., is expected to spike when Super Bowl LI takes over the city.
Most people who learn about children being trafficked believe they come from other countries but a forum presented by the Children's Assessment Center is shining the light on modern-day slavery and reminding us that sexual predators are targeting Houston-area children.
"There's a lot of money in it," explains U.S. Rep. Ted Poe. "It's only second to drugs internationally."
Poe says sex slavery is so popular because criminals can only sell drugs once but they peddle people repeatedly, especially targeting children who run away from home.
"Within days of running away from home, these children will be lured into the sex trade industry to be sold over and over again to disgusting Johns wanting to have sex with a child," explains Children's Assessment Center executive director Elaine Stolte.
"This is where I disagree with Elaine," adds Congressman Poe. "These are not Johns. John is in the bible. He's a good guy. These are bad guys. These are child abusers. These are sex predators."
Houston resident Katherine McGibbon was a victim of modern-day slavery. She was violated by more than 50 men every day.
"Emotionally, I was numb," says McGibbon. "During the period it was happening, it was an out of body experience because that's the only way to survive that." McGibbon and most who are held as sex slaves are usually in plain sight and aren't held by metal chains but by chains of fear.
Law enforcement agencies and child advocacy organizations met at the forum and are working with area hotels and other Houston-area sectors to help them identify victims as more visitors and potential predators come to Houston for Super Bowl LI.
McGibbon says she hopes to encourage victims to escape and speak up as she did.
"Don't be fearful of the threats, they're going to look for your family -- don't believe any of that," explains McGibbon. "We have to get past the fear to get to the help."
Houston Police Department Interim Chief Martha Montalvo says the agency is actively going after the people purchasing these sex slaves. Also, Congressman Poe is happy to announce that he is working on a legislative bill that would allow the pictures of these predators to be posted publicly on billboards and other places.