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Texas’ fight against child sex trafficking still has work left

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The COVID-19 pandemic has produced too many tragedies to tally, but here is one that does not get talked about enough: It has worsened conditions that leave children and youth especially vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation, a human trafficking crime.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, left, shown at a 2017 press conference, called sex trafficking "one of the most heinous crimes facing our society." [Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune]

Human trafficking happens when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to compel a person to provide labor, services, or commercial sexual acts against his or her will. When a minor is trafficked for commercial sex, it is considered a human trafficking crime, regardless of the presence of force, fraud or coercion. When a trafficker receives anything of monetary value in exchange for sexual contact with a minor, that minor has been trafficked. The majority of minors are trafficked by people they know.

Texas is leading a robust fight against trafficking, but we still have work to do. The Texas Legislature has an opportunity to strengthen and invest in services that the pandemic has made even more necessary. Organizations in communities throughout Texas that already work to meet the basic needs of vulnerable children and youth can also reduce the risk that a trafficker will target them.

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