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Houstonians fight human trafficking

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UH Graduate College of Social Work students learned from Mayor Annise Parker how they could “Shine a Light on Human Trafficking.” Graduate College of Social Work | The Daily Cougar

Mayor Annise Parker launched an event Tuesday to “Shine a Light on Human Trafficking.” Houstonians, including some of UH’s own Graduate College of Social Work students, gathered at City Hall to join in this effort.

“We’re here to represent the UH GCSW, the Students for Advancement of International Social Work, (and) Macro Student Network,” said Jenna Cooper, a graduate social work student.

The meeting began with a victim’s experience of human trafficking, painting a picture of the inhumanity of this social issue. Many speakers then followed, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Police Chief Charles A. McClelland, First Assistant District Attorney Belinda Hill, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Parker, and the host, Maria A. Trujillo, chair of the mayor’s Human Trafficking Task Force.

“Human trafficking is another word for slavery,” Parker said. “Although this is a law enforcement issue, the mayor’s task force intends to expose the public to this issue and help them become aware of how they can help, because without the help of citizens doing the right thing, it is hard for the District Attorney’s office to investigate and prosecute.”

According to Garcia, some victims may end up behind bars. However, the Harris County Correctional Facility is working hard to help these victims through a program called “Been There, Done That.”  This allows victims to attend root sessions, one-on-one therapy and group therapies to assess the circumstances that got them there, reinforce self-esteem and aid them in returning to a safer place in the community.

“The most important issue in helping these victims is their own willingness to overcome their traumas,” Garcia said.

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