Human Trafficking: The Culture in Lubbock

There's a lot of stigma connected to any sort of prostitution, especially here in Lubbock.  By definition, human trafficking is the recruitment or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

Unfortunately -- it's a product that's being sold right here at home, that no one seems to want to talk about. It seems it's always been something that happened in someone else's city, somewhere far away.   But according to Stacy Lambright with Voice of Hope (formerly Lubbock Rape Crisis Center) that's not the case - and it's never been, either.

"This lady is in my office, and she's 30-something years old," Lambright says. "She's lived in Lubbock her entire life, and this began when she was six. Which means this isn't a new problem."

Lambright is part of the team that conducted a regional survey on the issue, here at home.

"I think it's a little bit bigger than most people expected," she says. "There wasn't anybody not seeing it, for the most part."

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. A multi-billion dollar business, that's kept alive by people who prey on the under-age and the vulnerable.

That's how Chong Kim fell into it.

"There were times customers didn't like us screaming. So they didn't want to upset the customers," she tells KAMC about the environment she endured. 

Kim's story began at age 19. She met a guy, fell in love, and thought she was going to meet his parents. Instead, he kidnapped her and held her hostage in an abandoned shed.  Kim ended up in Nevada, where she describes being forced to have sex with multiple men, multiple times a day.

"We were force fed with narcotics, morphine, heroine, cocaine, and meth," Kim says.  "I tried to run away a couple of times, and when I did I was beaten and abused and also threatened that my family would be hurt."

So she stayed.  And for two years, she lived in storage units and warehouse trucks at the mercy of her pimps.

When asked about how a person or city becomes a target, she answered: "One of the downfalls is, when we don't recognize it the traffickers are looking for anyone to say 'it doesn't happen here.'"

And KAMC learned that it very much does happen here, according to the research from Voice of Hope, done in January.  According to their study, 88-percent of law enforcement respondents said they come across minors involved with prostitution, every week.  And 100-percent of those officers, say they know those minors are in the business against their will.

In the medical field, 40-percent of respondents say they believe their patients are being trafficked.  One of the youngest victims reported was a pregnant girl, under the age of 10.

"The bottom line is that this wouldn't exist, if there wasn't a market for it," Lambright stressed during our interview.

Since 20-10, there have been at least 7 arrests related to human trafficking in Lubbock. Two of those, were women working out of the Overton Hotel.

As for Kim, she eventually escaped, and now lives in Dallas.  She's dedicated her life to being an advocate for other young women, trapped in trafficking.  Her story is being told in a movie called "Eden: the Film."

"I want to encourage people to get angry enough to say, you know what? I want to do something," she says.

But there's not much that can be done in Lubbock, at least right now.

"Recognizing that its child prostitution or it's a sex trafficking thing, there's no system that's keeping up with that right now," Lambright says.  And the truth is, we have no idea how big the scope really is - only that what we do know, is incredibly under-reported.

Lambright says the closest resource for young victims is 14-hours away, and costs $240 a day.  There's even a training facility locally, for adults who want to know how to help.

"What I do know is that it's going to keep on growing if we don't do something to eliminate it," Lambright says.  "If we don't do something to address it, to educate people... To really draw attention to what it is."

Voice of Hope is currently in the process of trying to open a regional resource center.  The goal to get that done is to raise $150,000.  Right now, the non-profit is only in the first stage of planning. 

For more information on how to donate, click here.

To hear more about Chong Kim's story and watch her film, click here.

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