P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2022
AUSTIN -- State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, joined with advocates, local law enforcement and other area leaders today to raise public awareness about the need to identify and provide support for male victims of human trafficking.
“We need to change a widely held misconception that human trafficking only involves female victims. Boys are being victimized at alarming rates and often go unidentified, deprived of their freedom in horrific situations," Senator Nelson said. “We can’t let them remain invisible. We must change the way Texans think about this issue. We need them to see the faces of girls and boys when they think about this crime.”
At a press conference in Denton County, the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas launched a statewide campaign for Ranch Hands Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping male survivors of human trafficking. Donated billboard messages on digital units will be broadcast in up to 70 Texas cities. The campaign also includes displays on traditional billboards across the state as well, and will run for all of 2022.
“The Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas and its member companies, Clear Channel Outdoor, Lamar Advertising and OutFront Media have been committed to helping eradicate human trafficking from the state of Texas for a number of years. Reaching male victims of trafficking is an important part of this effort. We sincerely hope victims will find hope and seek support as they see these donated messages on our state’s roadsides,” Lee Vela, president, OAAT, said
In June, Ranch Hands Rescue in Denton County opened Bob's House of Hope to provide a place for young men to escape the horrors of commercial sexual exploitation. Ranch Hands Rescue is a sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals that also offers equine and animal-assisted counseling to abused and special needs children.
"For far too long, boys have been the unseen survivors of the horrific epidemic known as sex trafficking. With this billboard campaign, the advocacy of passionate legislative officials like Senator Nelson, and the support of compassionate law enforcement officials, we will shine a light on it and these innocent victims will no longer be in the shadows,” Ranch Hands Rescue CEO Bob Williams said. “Today, we are making Texas a leader in the fight against sex trafficking by recognizing publicly that boys are sex trafficked too!”
Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree attended the event, saying "Educating our children about the dangers of human trafficking, and the education of children and families about the signs and techniques used by traffickers will reduce victimization and help identify perpetrators."
Denton Police Chief Frank Dixon added "I'm excited to work alongside Bob's House of Hope. They are turning yesterday's forgotten victims into tomorrow's survivors."
Jamie McCormick, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Texas Alliance of Child & Family Services, said "State legislators, community organizations and state agencies are working together to combat child sex trafficking because we all recognize the immediate and longer-term impact of this horrible crime on vulnerable Texans. Tragically, children and youth being served by the child welfare system are at higher risk of being victimized. For their sake, it is imperative that we raise public awareness so that more of these survivors can get the services they need."
Texas more than tripled its investment in combatting human trafficking over the last four sessions. Last session the Legislature approved a rider by Senator Nelson authorizing a $10 million grant to support the operations of a safe house for male human trafficking victims. That grant has been awarded to Ranch Hands Rescue. Texas has the nation's second-highest incidences of human trafficking. Data about the prevalence of male victims vary greatly. About 13 percent of all calls from males to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2022 were from Texas. Its Texas report is available online at: humantraffickinghotline.org/state/texas.