TEXAS, USA —
Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott launched a campaign Thursday to help Texans recognize signs of human trafficking.
The "Can You See Me?" campaign is aimed at showing the different signs to look out for and how to report suspicious activity.
Rhonda Kuykendall is a survivor of child sex trafficking and an advocate for certain legislation. Back in 2007, she lobbied for a law to abolish the statute of limitations for trafficking offenders. This session, she's pushing for laws that would do things like decriminalizing minors charged with prostitution and registering ATMs in illicit massage businesses.
She said if a campaign like "Can You See Me?" or laws like these were in place when she was younger, they could have made a huge impact. She also said she hopes these changes can make a difference moving forward, so others don't have to go through what she did.
"There were times when we reported this crime to police, we reported the crime to doctors, CPS was actually involved in our family. But nothing ever happened. We fell through the cracks," Kuykendall said. "So, we have done – we have a lot of improvement, but we also have a lot more work to do."
Kuykendall said advocates have a Facebook group called "Our Voices in Texas" where they follow all the current legislation in the session and track its progress.
Children at Risk, a nonprofit that does research and gives guidance on policy recommendations, recently hosted a rally for currently filed anti-human trafficking legislation. The bills the group is advocating for include increasing penalties for traffickers and focusing on training for rideshare drivers to spot signs of human trafficking and how to report situations to police.
Caroline Roberts, a senior attorney with Children at Risk, said Abbott's campaign focused on recognizing the signs is important to help prevent people from becoming victims of trafficking.
"Being able to recognize some of these red flags and then get that child help before they have been harmed further is so, so, so important," Roberts said. "We know that children and adults who have been trafficked need services. They need long-term support and services, but we want to get them that help as soon as possible and make sure that they are not victimized further."
One sign Roberts said people can look out for is a child with multiple cellphones or multiple hotel keys.
Abbott launched the "Can You See Me?" campaign at a 12:30 p.m. event at the Texas Governor's Mansion, located on Colorado Street in Downtown Austin.