Students at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor participate in a campaign to end slavery in Bell County. KTEM[/caption]

(KTEM)-- “The reality is trafficking is everywhere. It’s going on in Waco. It’s going on in Belton.”

UnBound, a local ministry based in Central Texas, hosted an informative panel at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on Monday. The anti-slavery organization works on prevention, aftercare and legal advocacy for victims in Bell County.

According to a recent U.N. report nearly 30 million people are enslaved today. However, the issue does not just affect those living across the border or overseas. Cases exist as close as Killeen. 

“I am a forensic interviewer and have interviewed over 1000 children for allegations of abuse and human trafficking. We have cases of parents prostituting their kids for money right here in Temple,” UnBound social worker Kim Justice said.

UnBound works to raise awareness in communities so trafficking can be addressed and stopped by local enforcement.

“Our mission is to empower the community to address trafficking in their community,” Meek said.

UnBound holds training sessions for police enforcement, healthcare professionals and social workers to recognize the signs of children who are being trafficked.

“We go into juvenile detention centers to talk to 14-year-old girls about how to recognize pimps. Many of them are able to connect the dots to things that are happening in their own lives,” UnBound volunteer Natalie Garnett said.

Students attend a panel by UnBound, a local anti-slavery organization working in Central Texas. KTEM[/caption]

UnBound emphasizes the need for residents of Bell County to be able to identify the signs of trafficking and take responsibility for their communities.

“Traditional red flags include girls running away or spending time with new, older boyfriends they may have met online or at the mall,” Justice said.

“Look for a sense of control. Maybe he always has her phone. Traffickers play on vulnerability and desire for acceptance,” Garnett said.

Justice maintained that trafficking takes many forms and doesn’t always looks like a Hollywood movie.

“It’s not like Taken where some guy grabs a girl and puts her in a van. Those situations are rare. The majority are a slow, grooming process. Many times it’s not a stranger but someone she thought she knew.”  

Human trafficking does not just affect women and girls but boys, men and the transgender community as well.

“Boys often get overlooked and it’s hard to find them placement after rescue. If there is any underserved group, it's male victims,” Justice said.

UnBound told students to look for trafficking situations but not to try to be the hero.

“The last thing I need is some frat boy from Baylor getting shot up for trying to be Batman. If you see a weird situation, don’t intervene. Call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline.” Meek said.

At the end of the panel, the volunteers thanked the students for taking interest in justice for their communities.

“Whether in Mongolia or Waco, there is an awareness that needs to happen.” Justice said. “We need to take a stand and say ‘not in my backyard.’

National Human Trafficking Hotline:

1-888-373-7888 or text to BeFree (233733)