Panel highlights problem of human trafficking

The audience at the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s “Slavery Out of the Shadows” event applauds as panelists are introduced. Pictured on the front row, from left, are panelists David Boatright of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Dr. Lawrence Feldman of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, anti-human-trafficking attorney Beth Klein, Texas Assistant Attorney General Geoff Barr, and Terry Lord of WebSafety Inc.

Human trafficking is a major problem in Texas and throughout the United States, and fighting it requires people working together to identify victims and get them the help they need, panelists said Friday during an event at the Texas Supreme Court.

The recent case in Cleveland where three women were rescued after years of captivity is a dramatic reminder of the problem—and an example of how people can help, said Beth Klein, a Colorado-based, anti-human-trafficking attorney who appeared on the panel. An Ohio man helped save the women by breaking down a door to the house where they had been held.

“Because he took an action that was a little uncomfortable, we have three women (rescued) now who hadn’t seen the light of day in 10 years,” Klein said. “And that’s what I’m talking about. Every one of you has the opportunity to be a real hero.”

About 800,000 children go missing every year in the United States, including between 46,000 and 47,000 Texas children, said David Boatright, the executive director of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Texas regional office. Of those Texas children, 80 percent are at risk of becoming a child sex-trafficking victim, he said. 

“The numbers are astounding, and the risk is very, very high,” Boatright said.

The event, sponsored by the Texas Young Lawyers Association, included a showing of "Slavery Out of the Shadows,” a 30-minute film featuring stories of human-trafficking victims and the lawyers who prosecute the cases.

The audience included many people who helped create or appeared in the film, which is a public service project of the TLYA.

TYLA President C.E. Rhodes served as moderator of the panel, which also included Texas Assistant Attorney General Geoff Barr, who prosecutes human-trafficking cases; Dr. Lawrence Feldman, the vice chair of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, which has started a human-trafficking awareness campaign; and Terry Lord, a retired U.S. Justice Department official who now works as senior vice president of WebSafety Inc.

For more information about human trafficking, or to watch the film, visit tyla.org

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