I’m a former Texas child welfare investigator who helped recover sex-trafficking victims. As an expert, I helped The Texas Tribune report and investigate on sex trafficking in Texas and how children from the child welfare system end up sex-trafficking victims. AMA.

Read The Texas Tribune’s full series on sex trafficking in Texas here.

Here’s my proof.

Here's proof from The Texas Tribune

Also joining me is several Texas Tribune reporters

Neena Satija: neenareports

Morgan Smith: MSmithTX

Edgar Walters: ewaltersTX

Comments: 116 • Responses: 38  • Date: 

cookielicious123723 karma

Would legalizing prostitution help or hurt sex trafficking?

chuckpaulLLC5 karma

Sex trafficking victims are not prostitutes. Calling them such infers that they engaged in a sex act for money of their own free will. The majority of sex trafficking victims are children. Legally children cannot consent to sex, nor do they have the cognitive ability to protect themselves from exploitation. Sex Trafficking is defined as Buying, Selling, or Trading a Victim’s Labor, or Sexual Services, resulting in a commercial gain for the trafficker. Often there is no compensation given to the victim, and their participation is based in manipulation, cohesion, fraud, and eventual force. It is modern-day slavery, which is demeaning, degrading, & often life threatening. Child Sex Trafficking often includes a combination of trading children to be sexual abused, pornography, stripping, escort services, & “survival sex” - trading sex for drugs and favors.

CareerCoachGuy18 karma

How do you deal with the horrors and dark psychological side of these criminals?

chuckpaulLLC36 karma

Joint investigations are the only way to address the criminal. You have to share the load between different experts. Afterwards you need to detox. Have friends, or even a counselor you can talk too.

MatanKatan11 karma

But you can't talk in detail about ongoing investigations, right?

chuckpaulLLC13 karma

Correct!

MSmithTX15 karma

Hi Chuck -- I've had several folks ask me a variation of this question: what should people do if they want to keep an eye out for sex trafficking happening in their community? are there particular signs they should look when they stay in motels or travel, for instance?

chuckpaulLLC32 karma

THE ABC’S OF COMMERICAL CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING -AWARENESS • Clothing maybe too sexual, wrong size, not appropriate for the weather or place they are, or less expensive than the persons they are with. • They have very few personal items. • May be in possession of multiple hotel room keys; & prepaid credit cards • Victims may have “Branding” tattoos. • Signs of poor hygiene, may look sick, use makeup to cover injuries. BEHAVIOR • Victims maybe under the influence of drugs or alcohol. • May be disoriented or confused, fearful, timid, or submissive. • No eye contact, looking at their feet or back to another person. • Unease where there is visible security or law enforcement. • May become verbally vulgar when challenged by an authority figure (watch for fight, flight, & freeze). COMMUNICATION • Often victims can’t provide details about where they came from or where they are going. • Their answers appear rehearsed, and they will become nervous or angry if pressed for details. • They appear to look to a companion for answers & they seem to be under that person’s control, they may be closely watched, or followed.

MSmithTX6 karma

If someone recognizes these signs, what steps should they take?

chuckpaulLLC37 karma

SUSPICIOUS? What to do… • Never attempt to intervene or take the victim out of the situation by force! • Call 911 and tell the dispatcher you are reporting suspected human trafficking of a child. • Become a good witness, look at details, colors, vehicle descriptions, direction of travel, hotel room numbers, etc. • If possible, use your cell phone to take very discreet photos. • After you report to the police, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888; OR Text details to BEFREE (233733)

chuckpaulLLC15 karma

This information is from a training I created to introduce the basics of child sex trafficking to organizations and individuals.

thatGuy911894 karma

I have heard about Barcode tattoos but what are the other types frequently associated with a victim of sex trafficing?

chuckpaulLLC11 karma

Traffickers “stamp” their victim, this is usually a tattoo on the shoulder, neck, or back, it is the traffickers “brand” or “logo”. I have seen traffickers "street name" "gang handle". Money bags and money symbols are very common. It is a common practice for three main reasons. 1) The brand bonds the victim to the trafficker. It says the victim's body belongs to the trafficker. The victim no longer sees them self as an individual, but as an extension of the trafficker. 2) The bond tells other traffickers that all access to the victim must go through the trafficker whose brand they see. If they try to steal the victim, then they risk violence. Traffickers do commonly buy, sell, and trade victims between them, thus the victim gets a new brand. 3) The brand controls. If the victim tries to run away they risk the brand being recognized. Traffickers will pay "bounties" to a person who reports to them the location of a runaway with their brand.

chuckpaulLLC2 karma

This information is from a training I created to introduce the basics of child sex trafficking to organizations and individuals.

Lowcrbnaman11 karma

How much is the drug trade linked with sex trafficking? What's the most horrifying experience you've had.

chuckpaulLLC17 karma

Drug and sex trafficking go hand and hand. Traffickers use drug addiction as a way to control victims. Traffickers will sell the drugs, and when they have no more drug product, they will sell a child, over and over.

BobbyCBlanchard7 karma

Hi Chuck, a reader named KL Ray asked us a question on social media about male sex-trafficking victims. Are they prevalent in the Texas sex-trafficking underworld as well?

chuckpaulLLC13 karma

In short, Traffickers will enslave and sell anyone they can, no matter the gender, race, sex, creed, or social economic group. The internet is an great tool for good, but it is also exploited for evil.

rickmuscles6 karma

Has blocking websites like Backpage.com helped the issue or do you think that's censorship?

chuckpaulLLC16 karma

Backpage was not blocked. The internet site was receiving billions from users posting ads selling women and children for sex under their "adult services section". When the executives received pressure from congress and law enforcement, they shut down their "adult services section" and plastered "censorship" on the section. Than they moved all the ads to the "dating section". It's a shell game. There are dozens of websites that sell women and children for sex. Shut down one and another pops up, just like the old game of whack a mole, but if one child is saved than ever effort is worth it , because what if the child saved was your child? Would it be censorship if someone you loved was being sold?

gambiergump5 karma

What's your opinion on decriminalization of sex work? Is that a reasonable answer to part of the problem, or not? Also, will Texas Republicans be willing to spend money to give rights to sex workers, and protect children from pimps, if that doesn't align with Evangelical Christianity?

chuckpaulLLC11 karma

Based on my years of working with men and women in sex work, I have not meet one person who choose to sell themselves. No little boy or girl says I want to be a sex worker when they grow up. Ever person I've worked with in sex work where brought into it either by force, fraud, manipulation, or desperation.

hairyovens4 karma

Do you think Pizzagate is a real issue or just a hoax?

Why am I getting downvoted? I'm not saying I believe in it. I'm just curious what somebody thinks of it that works in sex trafficking.

chuckpaulLLC4 karma

I have worked cases where traffickers have conducted operations out of legitimate businesses. Most of these businesses are sexual based such as “gentlemen’s clubs”, massage parlors, and strip clubs. I am even aware of a case involving a barber shop. I have never come across a case involving a pizza parlor. The large operations are backed large criminal gangs, such as the Mexican mafia, Aaryn Brotherhood, Texas Syndicate, MS13, etc.

TheCrawlingDude4 karma

Well... Have you ever occurred to found corruption cases related in your investigations? What has happened when you (or other investigators) bust corrupted cops/deputy/tutors? There was any scandal?

chuckpaulLLC8 karma

Each investigation I was involved in were joint investigations. These means two or more agencies coordinated efforts to locate, recover, rescue and restore the victim. Whenever we encountered a situation where it appeared there may be inappropriate conduct by a public servant, it was referred to the appropriate oversite agency. Trust is very important. When a public servant betrays the trust, they must be held accountable by whatever system has oversite on them.

BobbyCBlanchard3 karma

Hey Chuck, we have a question from a reader named Stacey from Facebook: “I’m curious as to whether there are available federal funds that Texas or nonprofits could apply for?”

chuckpaulLLC2 karma

Current federal funding is through the US Dept of Justice, it is a two year grant, that requires joint filing through coalition, such as the Heart of Texas Coalition Against Trafficking or the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking.

Chtorrr3 karma

What can the public do to help stop sex trafficking?

chuckpaulLLC9 karma

There are so many options; 1) Become and advocate/mentor with agencies like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) or Ransomed Life or Rape Crisis Center, or any one of the number of agencies working hard to make sure children do not fall through the cracks. 2) Become a foster parent; there a dozens of great Child Placement Agencies that a desperate for people with hearts for these children who truly believe they are unlovable. 3) Become a voice: Organizations like Traffick 911, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Polaris, Truckers Against Trafficking, all need help from people who can spread the message. 4) Don't let these stories and victims be forgotten: contact your Federal, State, County, and Local leaders and keep this issue in front of them.

Chtorrr6 karma

I recently read an article about Truckers Against Trafficking and it sounds like a really neat organization. It's not something I ever thought of but truckers are probably fairly often traveling the same routes that someone up to no good would travel.

chuckpaulLLC10 karma

TAT is an awesome organization, and a great example of how private citizens can rally to this cause. TAT was formed as grassroots organization of truckers who saw women and children sold in the truck lots. They formed an organization to educate truck drivers, and those in the transportation support industries about the evil of sex trafficking. They have since trained thousands of truckers and people in the transportation industry. This creates a force multiplication of eyes and ears on the ground, which has led to dozens of children being reported to police and rescued throughout the county.

livingstories3 karma

Do you have any opinions on how sex-education may impact the issue of sex trafficking in Texas?

chuckpaulLLC15 karma

I believe that any sex education should include an introduction to sex trafficking and what traffickers do to trick, force, and manipulate a person into sexual slavery. Education can be a great force for prevention.

BobbyCBlanchard2 karma

We have a question from Allison on Facebook. “So what is Texas doing to really target, arrest, and prosecute the men who have sex with underage prostitutes?”

chuckpaulLLC5 karma

Texas is on the forefront police operation to detect, arrest, and prosecute the men, and women, who buy children for sex. The Texas AG's Office partners with DPS, FBI, U.S. Marshal's, County, and local police to conduct operations and investigations. The problem comes when the victim is rescued, because there is nowhere for the victim to go. Without help the victims disappear back into the underground, without a victim it is hard to prosecute the offender.

livingstories2 karma

What are the penalties for people who buy sex in Texas?

chuckpaulLLC2 karma

Texas and Federal Law have felon charges for Trafficking in Persons and Child Sex Trafficking. These charges can result in as much as 25 years in prison. In Texas victims can also file a civil case against their trafficker.

samwise09122 karma

On a personal level, what are since our your favorite films?

chuckpaulLLC3 karma

It may sound cliché, but I am a fan of “Taken”, which is very much fiction. Other favorites are “Facing Giants” and “Courageous”

indian_pie20002 karma

Do you have any statistics as to how prevalent sex trafficking is in Texas?

chuckpaulLLC5 karma

2007 to 2015 the Polaris Project National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline received 1,024 calls of Human Trafficking in Texas. These calls have generated 307 criminal cases in Texas this year. 832 Texas victims were identified, with 198 of the victims calling the hotline themselves for help. 2012 to 2015 - 263 south central foster youth were flagged as potential victims of sex trafficking; 48 were confirmed victims. 2013 FBI & NCMEC reported more than 7,000 U.S. children were victims of commercial sexual exploitation. 25% of the victims were from Texas. FBI & NCMEC reported that 67% of the victims were runaways from foster care when they were victimized. In 2015, NCMEC received 11,800 reports of endangered missing youth; 74% were missing foster youth; 1 in 5 were human trafficking victims. 2016 - 51 south center Texas children were confirmed victims of sex trafficking. 2016 the Polaris Project National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline has received 11,220 calls of Human Trafficking in Texas. These calls generated 2,575 criminal cases in Texas and identified 6,521 Texas victims. 2017 University of Texas Austin announced they had completed a two-year study finding that there are approximately 79,000 juvenile victims of sex trafficking in Texas. Pimps can earn approximately $632,000 per year by selling 4 youth or children into pornography & prostitution. The victims are sold 5-6 times per night, 7 days a week, which totals over 2,000 sex acts per year. Nationally, child porn is a $3 billion annual industry, with 55% coming from the internet.

abusuru2 karma

What can attorney ad litems do to help? Have you ever seen an AAL do an excellent job for a child in danger of being trafficked? If so, what does that look like?

chuckpaulLLC6 karma

When the AAL for the child takes the time to get to know the child, and their situation, they provide the child with an alternative positive relationship to choose instead of the negative relationship with a trafficker. Traffickers tell children they are the only one who can love them because they are the only one who know what the child has done. An AAL that also knows what the child has done and still supports them gives the child options.

ArseKraken2 karma

What was your most satisfying case?

chuckpaulLLC6 karma

I don't just one case I would say was "most" satisfying. The scale at which I judge outcomes is based on how well the survivor is able to gt the help they need to regain there freedom and soul.

ArseKraken3 karma

What got you into this field? (Awesome work by the way)

chuckpaulLLC11 karma

When I was still in the military I worked with federal agents on the border. This lead to me becoming a federal agent on the border, where I learned about international drug and human trafficking. After I left federal service for state service I learned about domestic minor sex trafficking. Once you know about this evil you have a choice, fight it or choose to ignore it. I choose to fight it.

El_Flyer_21313 karma

Once you know about this evil you have a choice, fight it or choose to ignore it. I choose to fight it.

Thank you, sir, for choosing to fight!

chuckpaulLLC4 karma

Thank you!

green492852 karma

Best way to combat sex trafficking?

MSmithTX5 karma

Hi there - I'm one of the reporters on the project. We just tackled this question in a story we wrote yesterday that outlined what Texas lawmakers could do right now to help sex trafficking victims. The five takeaways: 1. Spend some actual state dollars on victims’ services 2. Spend more state money to help vulnerable children in general 3. Stop treating sex-trafficking victims like criminals 4. Do a better job of tracking and finding missing children 5. Create a statewide approach to dealing with sex trafficking

green492852 karma

Any specifics on particular LE practices?

MSmithTX3 karma

Two of the stories in the series might be of particular interest on that topic: one that features Yvette, a victim who ended up being convicted of sex trafficking and Lena, a victim who at 17 was arrested and put in jail because there was nowhere else for her to go.

green492851 karma

Besides not prosecuting victims, any other methods or practices LE can utilize?

chuckpaulLLC5 karma

LE needs to be victim centered when interactive with victims. Think about the victim as someones daughter or son. What would you want for your child if they where a victim? Don't make promises you can not keep, be straight forward, victims can detect when you are not being straight with them, and they will shut down. Don't ever expect a "Disney Moment" it's about the victim first.

chuckpaulLLC1 karma

Combating Sex Trafficking is not a one agency, organization. To fight it you need to partner with various experts. Law Enforcement working together with social workers, therapist, educators, the courts, the media, the churches

DreamsTimez1 karma

Favorite color?

chuckpaulLLC1 karma

army green

sand901 karma

Have you found yourself while doing this?

chuckpaulLLC5 karma

I’m a solider at heart. My identity is not in what I do, but in whom I serve. I do what I do because it has to be done. It’s my mission.

ramzor131 karma

I always wondered why the victims don't just run immediately to someone that can help. There are times when they are in public and could surely do that?

chuckpaulLLC1 karma

According to The International Institute of for Trauma & Addiction Professionals;“Trauma bonding happens when someone uses fear, sexual feelings … and excitement to entrap someone else. It is a result of continuing cycles of abuse where alternating reward and mistreatment to form an emotional bond that is not easy to break” Traffickers use this alternating system of rewards and punishments to create an emotional bond to the child, like the bonds seen in domestic violence and cults. Traffickers repeatedly tell the child they are the only person who can love them, because anyone else will reject the child because they are a “whore”. Children who have experienced abuse and neglect tend to have weaker attachments, and therefore are more susceptible to trauma bonding.

CindyLouWhodunit1 karma

Hi Chuck- Are victims often marked in some way? Is branding or tattooing of victims a common practice? Also, what age do traffickers consider too old to be trafficked?

chuckpaulLLC1 karma

Traffickers “stamp” their victim, this is usually a tattoo on the shoulder, neck, or back, it is the traffickers “brand” or “logo”. It is a common practice for three main reasons. 1) The brand bonds the victim to the trafficker. It says the victim's body belongs to the trafficker. The victim no longer sees them self as an individual, but as an extension of the trafficker. 2) The bond tells other traffickers that all access to the victim must go through the trafficker whose brand they see. If they try to steal the victim, then they risk violence. Traffickers do commonly buy, sell, and trade victims between them, thus the victim gets a new brand. 3) The brand controls. If the victim tries to run away they risk the brand being recognized. Traffickers will pay "bounties" to a person who reports to them the location of a runaway with their brand.

chuckpaulLLC2 karma

Traffickers do not care about the victim's age. As long as they can sell the victim than age is not a factor. The main factor is this life is destroys the human body, and ages a person. Traffickers use drugs to control victims, they keep them awake for days, meals are scarce and when they do eat its cheap fast food. After time the victim is no longer marketable, and is either discarded or sold.

BobbyCBlanchard1 karma

Hi Chuck. A few readers have asked what they can do to help these victims individually, as private citizens. What can people who don't work in law enforcement or state government do?

chuckpaulLLC3 karma

There are so many options; 1) Become and advocate/mentor with agencies like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) or Ransomed Life or Rape Crisis Center, or any one of the number of agencies working hard to make sure children do not fall through the cracks. 2) Become a foster parent; there a dozens of great Child Placement Agencies that a desperate for people with hearts for these children who truly believe they are unlovable. 3) Become a voice: Organizations like Traffick 911, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Polaris, Truckers Against Trafficking, all need help from people who can spread the message. 4) Don't let these stories and victims be forgotten: contact your Federal, State, County, and Local leaders and keep this issue in front of them.

Mantisbog1 karma

What's your favorite Soul Asylum song?

chuckpaulLLC3 karma

I'm more of classic rock fan.

NomadicTickler1 karma

Hi Chuck, from your experience do you think global sex trafficking trade is decreasing or increasing?

chuckpaulLLC2 karma

According to the 2014 United Nations Report International Sex Trafficking is a 34 Billion Dollar a Year Criminal Enterprise. It has surpassed arms trafficking to become the second largest international crime.

robNbanks4201 karma

I live in Texas and know the numbers beyond sex trafficking however in your experience where are the most prolific places in Texas where this takes place?

chuckpaulLLC2 karma

According to ever report I have seen, as well as cases I have worked on, Houston Texas and Atlanta Georgia have the highest reported cases of child sex trafficking in the country. Sex trafficking happens wherever persons with disposable income are in high concentration, such as the business districts and airports of major cities, and the “man camps” near oil fields.

TheProfessor_Reddit1 karma

How do you deal with people who are fine with killing and worse to those people?

chuckpaulLLC3 karma

It is not my place to judge the perpetrators. Allowing my anger and frustration to build up only made me miserable, and I was no longer effective in the fight against this injustice. I except my role as an advocate, rescuer, and champion for the victim. I leave the judgment of the perpetrators to our systems, and except it when I don’t agree with the outcome. I do believe in God and I believe in the end He has the final say.