City in Focus: Houston, Texas

Written by on November 9th, 2016

As the most populated city in Texas, and the fourth most populated city in the USA, Houston is a bustling metropolis with an enormous demand for prostitution. The word “Houston” was the first word ever spoken from the moon and the city has become world famous for its space and science programs. However, what Houston is not as well known for is its booming “hidden in plain sight” sex industry.

In addition to strip clubs, street prostitution, and escort prostitution, scattered throughout Houston are a vast number of “cantinas” (mexican bars) that are fronts for brothels, and places where sexual exploitation and trafficking flourish. A local anti-trafficking organization estimates that the number of brothels and cantinas are estimated to be upward of ONE THOUSAND in the larger Houston area!1

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, just behind California, Texas had the second highest number of trafficking cases reported.2 And although difficult to verify, some claim that the city of Houston has the largest number of sex trafficking victims of any city in the nation.3

In 2004, famous journalist and writer Hunter Thompson said about the city: “Houston is a cruel, crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence.” Though perhaps not a well-balanced analysis of the city, there is some truth to Thompson’s words.

Southern Texas’ proximity to the U.S./Mexico border makes Houston an ideal location for the trafficking of women from Mexico into the U.S., and this happens frequently.

Recently CNN reported on the tragic story of one woman trafficked from her home in Mexico into Houston’s prostitution cantinas:

Esperanza was waiting for her cousins outside her high school in Mexico one day, when a strange man drove up in a car, forced her inside with him and sped away. At that moment, Esperanza had in effect become a sex slave.

“He beat and raped me”…She said the man—who called himself Poncho—brought her to a madam who showed Esperanza how to charge clients and how to use a condom.

A few times Esperanza tried—and failed—to escape, but she said Poncho, now age 47, always tracked her down, and then beat her.

Eventually, Esperanza realized she was pregnant. Three months later, she said Poncho drove her across the Mexican-US border and on to Houston, Texas, where he forced her to work in a cantina called La Costenita.

She gave birth to a baby girl, but Poncho took the infant away as insurance that Esperanza would keep working as a sex slave and wouldn’t escape.

“I really wanted to speak up, to ask the police for help,” Esperanza said. “But I got caught up by the threats he would make towards my daughter. I didn’t want anything to happen to her.”4

Sadly, Esperanza’s story is representative of the stories of scores of women. However, unlike Esperanza, many women who can be found working in Houston’s cantinas and brothels weren’t necessarily abducted, but are no less victims of exploitation.

Some are deceived with promises of a better life across the border and presented with a glamorous picture of prosperity.

Others “sign up” to work in the cantinas even knowing they will be prostituted, because they are coerced by life circumstances such as extreme poverty.

Police have a difficult job of trying to keep the prostitution cantinas under control. When one is shut down it can quickly re-open in a different location, and this happens in record numbers. Lax zoning laws throughout the city make the task of keeping these locations under control even more difficult.

But there are warriors of hope in the city of Houston.

One such warrior is named Cat French, a no nonsense woman with a fiery passion for Jesus and justice, who started the organization Elijah Rising. Cat and her team boldly go where few dare to. Since their founding several years ago, they have helped to rescue over two dozen sex trafficking victims and to shut down over 13 brothels.

Incredibly, the Elijah Rising office now operates out of one of the cantina brothels that they helped to shut down. In addition to running a newly opened healing community for sex industry survivors called Kendleton Farms, the Elijah Rising team does regular prayer initiatives and also partners with a sex trafficking hotline in the city run by the organization Rescue Houston. During regular outreaches, they provide the hotline number to an average of 200 girls per month—of which about 5 per month are said to exit prostitution.

The Justice Rally and Intervention Workshop

Coming up in 3 short months Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl. In the days leading up to the event, Exodus Cry is partnering with Elijah Rising’s initiative to do a city-wide outreach called the Justice Rally.

The rally will take place February 1–4 and will include prostitution outreach training (also known as “Intervention”), with teaching from speakers in the abolition movement, and lots of opportunity for you to go out into the city and reach out to women caught in prostitution as well as sex buyers.

To offer you even more extensive training, on February 1 Exodus Cry will be hosting a day-long Intervention Workshop prior to the start of the Justice Rally, featuring in-depth teaching from our Intervention team. Every attendee to the workshop will receive a copy of our brand new Intervention Manual, a 200-page guide for reaching those caught in sexual exploitation.

You can purchase a ticket for both the Intervention Workshop and Justice Rally for $175 (a discount of $25), or you can purchase a ticket for either single event for $100 each.

Whatever way you’re able to participate we’d love for you to join us! This will be an incredible way to get strategic equipping for outreach combined with the opportunity to reach real men and women caught in Houston’s sex industry.

In the coming months please pray with us for the city of Houston—and join us there in person if you can make it!

#WHATIFHOUSTON

Justice Rally General Admission: $100

-Nightly outreaches in the bars, brothels, clubs, & cantinas
-Evening worship & teaching with Cat French (Elijah Rising), Rebecca Bender (RBI) & Benjamin Nolot
-Online outreach to both exploited women & sex buyers
-Creative, engaging awareness-raising on the streets
-Ongoing worship and prayer

Exodus Cry Intervention Workshop Admission: $100

One day of intensive outreach training (attendees receive Exodus Cry’s new Intervention and Outreach Manual + recorded training)

Justice Rally + Intervention Workshop Admission: $175

Footnotes

  • 1. Cat French, founder of Elijah Rising, November 3, 2016
  • 2. https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/type-trafficking/sex-trafficking
  • 3. http://kxan.com/2016/03/28/houston-has-highest-number-of-trafficking-victims-nation-wide/
  • 4. http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/11/us/the-hunt-john-walsh-diaz-juarez-texas-sex-slave-human-trafficking/