Teen Trafficking

By Deb Murphy, Youth Services Specialist

Human trafficking has been in the news a lot lately and the subject of some really action-packed thrillers, like the movie, “Taken.” A lot of people think of human trafficking as just moving people from one place to another, like human smuggling. That’s not necessarily the case. You may be trafficked in your own hometown. Most people don’t think it can happen to them, but it can. And it can happen to teenagers, too! As a matter of fact, it happens right here in the LGBT community, and probably more than you may think.

Thinking TeenThere are two types of trafficking: sex trafficking and labor trafficking.

Sex trafficking is when you’re forced in some way to provide sexual services for money. It’s important for you to know that if you’re doing that, for money, gifts, or a place to stay, and you are under the age of 18, you are the victim. Even after you turn 18, if a boyfriend, girlfriend, family member, or pimp, forces you to exchange sex, you are also a victim of trafficking.

Labor trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion to get you to work for little or no pay. Maybe you have to sell magazines or pirated DVDs door-to-door or end up back on the street.

Anyone can be the victim of trafficking. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, where you live, what you look like, or how much money your family has. Traffickers prey on the vulnerable, and they think that if you are lonely or have a secret like your sexual orientation or gender identity, they may be able to control you. They know that if they pretend to love you or be your prince, your emotions will kick in before your brain can alert you to the dangers ahead.

What we are finding out is that LGBT teens are more vulnerable to being the victim of sex trafficking than labor trafficking, although there can be a combination of both going on. Here are some ways that teens can get trapped:

  • You ran away from home or were kicked out. Someone approaches you in person or through a social app offering to help you out, saying what happened to you isn’t fair. They give you what you need – a place to stay, clothes, food, etc. You fall in love with that person, but things start to change. They may turn mean or even hit you. They may force you to have sex with them or their friends. They may tell you that you owe them money for everything they gave you, and you have to work it off by hustling, with their friends, on the street or answering ads like on Craigslist. It can also be as subtle as the trafficker asking the victim to “help out” since they have been given so much. You don’t want to but you feel obligated, after all – it’s your lover – so you do it anyway. Sometimes they are nice to you, and sometimes they are really mean to you. Either way, they take your money and control your every move. You may even have some feelings for them but you don’t like what is happening.
  • You have a friend who has all the latest gadgets and fashion. You wish you could afford them, too. They know all the people in the clubs. They tell you that they make money on the side by performing sex for money. They say it is no big deal; that the guys are hot, and maybe you can get an iPad out of it. At first you don’t think it is a big deal either, so you do it. Eventually it gets old but you don’t know how to get out. You can’t tell your parents or friends because you are ashamed. You think they’ll think less of you or that you should have known better.

Teens get trafficked in so many different ways. A quick test is that if you are being forced (someone is physically forcing you) or you are being coerced (you are told you owe a debt), you are being trafficked.

Let’s say you have a new friend and think maybe he or she is a trafficking victim. You wonder why your friend would stay. There are lots of reasons (doesn’t mean they’re good reasons):

  • Your friend may have fallen in love with the trafficker
  • Your friend would rather do this than be back on the street
  • The trafficker might have threatened your friend’s friends or family
  • The trafficker might have intimidated your friend so much that they can’t see any way out
  • The “system” has rejected your friend when they asked for help
  • Your friend may be too embarrassed to admit they didn’t realize what was happening before it escalated

Now you’re wondering “How do I bring this up?” Here are some things to remember:

  • Listen
  • Make sure they know this is not OK and certainly not love
  • Find out who they could go to for help and share that information.
  • Be a friend – don’t judge
  • Be patient. It may take some time for them to get the courage to act.

Can someone break out of this life? Yes, there is help. You don’t have to stay. What they are doing to you is not only wrong, it’s illegal. Even if you’re selling yourself for sex, it is not your fault! To get out, you can tell a trusted adult or police officer or you can call 1.888.3737.888.


bulliedBy Deb Murphy, Youth Services Specialist

Bullying is mean and it hurts.  In this article we’re going to talk a little about what bullying is and what you can do to keep yourself and others safer.

When I looked up the definition of bullying, I found that there are lots of ways to talk about this subject. They all have a few things in common.  First thing - the power between the people involved isn’t equal.  The bully is using their power to hurt and control the victim.  The victim has a hard time defending themselves. Second thing - the bully is trying to control and hurt.  It’s not an accident or mistake. Third thing - the hurtful behavior happens more than once. So someone being mean one time doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bully, they might have just made a mistake or having a bad day.

There’s all kinds of ways to bully.  A few of them are:

Verbal – teasing, name calling, put down, threats that aren’t fun and aren’t play.

Physical – pinching, shoving, punching, knives, guns

Social – this one can be really complicated and mean.  It could be starting untrue rumors about someone.  It could be making sure someone is never invited to fun things anymore.

Cyberbullying – this happens on line, on the phone and goes on 24/7.

You know, I was surprised at how many resources talk just about the bully and the victim.  I found a really good paper (OK – got to do this to be fair – Smith, P.K. (2004). Bullying: Recent Developments. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 9(3), 98-103.) that talks about everyone involved in bullying.  They divided people up as:

Ringleaders – these are the people who start the bullying.

Followers – these are the people who join in once the bullying has started.

Bystanders (Smith calls them Reinforcers) – these people give the bully the audience s/he is looking for.

Defenders – these are the people who say “stop” or go get help from adults.

Outsiders – people who are not involved in and don’t know about the bullying.

This is a lot of people!  In cyberbullying, this could be hundreds of people!

OK, that’s nice.  But I’m being bullied! What do I do?

First things first – understand this is not your fault! Be proud of who and what you are no matter what someone else says to you. Please, don’t be afraid to ask an adult for help.  Choose an adult who you think will help.

Next step – staying safe.  No matter what is going on, your first job is to keep yourself safe.  If it is safe to do so, tell the bully to stop. If you can’t do that, walk or run away.  If you can’t get away, and they are hitting you, curl up and protect your head.

Once you know you are a target, you need to work to help keep yourself safer.  Again, tell an adult you think will help you what is going on.  Find a way to avoid the bully.  Stay with other people so the bully can’t get you alone.

Me? Bully?

I think one of the big problems bullies and followers have is they don’t understand how badly they are hurting the other person.  If you are a bully, please stop – it isn’t cool or funny, you’re doing real damage.  If you can’t stop, please talk to a trusted adult and ask them to help you.  You too are worthy of love and support.

If you’re not sure you’re a bully, ask the other person.  Say something like “hey, I thought I was just teasing.  Did I really hurt you?  I’m sorry!”  Note – this is not a way to get away from consequences, people can tell if you are lying.

If you made a mistake or you’re trying to be a better person: APOLOGIZE! Make a commitment to treat people better next time. Again, ask for help if you need it.

Speak Up!

As for bystanders , the ones who say “I didn’t do anything, I was just there!”  Nice story, but not true.   Remember, someone is getting hurt!  Help if you can, walk away if you can’t but take away the bully’s audience.  Later,  let the victim know you saw what happened and you’re sorry it happened to them.  You need to make it right too. Let an adult know what happened.

Don't Be a Hero

Now we come to the defender, to the person who wants to stop the violence in front of them.  That’s great, but please remember, you could get hurt.  If you’re not sure it’s safe to break it up, go get an adult to help.  Let the victim know later you helped.

Bullying hurts all of us and all of us can work together to stop it.

Photo: Steven Fernandez on Flickr

$$$ for Higher Ed

Hey recent graduates and returning college students... it may not be too late to apply for scholarships! We have posted a few links to some very LGBT-specific scholarship resources that your school's financial aid office may not know about. In fact, we were just made aware (by our friends at ERSICSS) of a new statewide LGBT scholarship given by The United Court of Austin. Check 'em out, and please let us know if you are aware of any others that we can add to the list!

Don't assume you can't get a scholarship. Maybe you think your grades aren't strong enough. Maybe you got a loan and decided to blow it off. Whatever the excuse, it never hurts to apply. Not all scholarships are GPA-based. If you need help, ask Deb or Des!

Hatch Uke Band - Born This Way (Lady Gaga)

Hatch youth learnied to play ukuleles! So, we're not rock stars yet, but that doesn't mean we can't act like it. We'd like to thank ERSICSS for donating the ukes and for inspiring us to take a ride on the creative side with this awesomely fun video. Lady Gaga and her song "Born This Way" have been a big inspiration to us this year, too, OBVIOUSLY.

Sing along at the end!

About the Prom

Prom 2014

The Hatch Prom is held on the first Friday of June. The Prom Steering Committee, comprised of Hatch youth, develop a new theme each year. 

NEXT PROM    June 2, 2016 • 7pm - Midnight

Numbers Night Club    300 Westheimer

Click HERE to purchase tickets to the prom

The Hatch Prom is a tradition and rite of passage for Houston-area LGBTQIA youth. Imagine going to your high school prom and being able to dress like you want to, dance with your partner, and just be yourself! That's what Hatch prom is all about. You won't recognize the place because it'll be transformed into an awesome dance floor with a rockin' DJ, and tons of yummy food. We'll have a photographer there to take your photo.

As always, young adults ages 21-25 and over are invited to purchase tickets for $25. This year, we are having an adult VIP reception, and tickets to that event are $50. We also welcome you to be a sponsor of prom.  LGBTQIA youth up to age 20 are admitted for free. We encourage the youth to wear a costume, come in drag, gown, tuxedo, or whatever they're comfortable wearing as long as it's legal.

Prom also happens to be an opportunity for the community to give back and earmark their funds for this youth program. In the last few years, we've expanded Hatch to offer in-school meetings, Safe Zones on-campus counseling, Outreach workers who try to keep LGBT youth from living on the street. We thank our generous sponsors, without whom this event would not be possible!


Any Houston-area businesses who want to participate with food donations or prom court donations should get in touch with Anna Garza at 713.529.0037 x368.


We need lots of super-awesome volunteers to get things ready and for clean-up. We especially need people that can help decorate and run errands on June 5-6 during the day. If you want to join our Prom Volunteer Crew, please contact Jay Mays at 713.529.0037 x395.

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