Here’s an excerpt of our Q&A with Dixie:
Dallas Heroes Project: Dixie, how did you learn about human trafficking and what made you want to work in this arena?
Dixie Hairston: During my master’s program, I took a class on global affairs and was assigned the topic of human trafficking. I didn’t know much about it, but after reading and researching, it became the subject of my master’s capstone project. I was hooked and knew I wanted to work in policy.
DHP: How did you decide you wanted to work for Children at Risk?
DH: Children at Risk is the go-to organizaiton for children’s advocacy in Texas. Dr. Bob Sanborn (President and CEO of C@R) is a professor at University of Houston, and C@R has a really close tie with the school of social work.
DHP: What does a typical day look like for you?
DH: Everyday is different. I work in both Dallas and Fort Worth and sometimes go back and forth between the 2 multiple times a day. I spend a lot of time being in the community, meeting with the police department, meeting with members of the CEASE Network, reading and staying on top of the most recent field research on human trafficking as soon as it comes out. During legislative session, I’m frequently in Austin meeting officials from both sides of the aisle. What’s great is that most everyone I meet wants anti-trafficking and ask “How can I help? What can I do?”
DHP: What are some of the programs and policies you are working on right now?
DH: My big priority right now is making sure there are strong protections set up so that the most vulnerable children in our communities no longer become victims of sex trafficking. I want to make sure that children in the foster care system, in particular, are being protected against this terrible form of exploitation.
Texas generates the second highest number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and many times those calls involve sex trafficking cases, which are situations of adults being coerced into prostitution or children caught in the commercial sex trade. Demand for commercial sex is inherently linked to sex trafficking. Without sex buyers, there would be no need for traffickers to provide a never ending supply of victims.
We are also working to transfer the legal pressure from the victim to the buyer. We want to raise the atmosphere of risk for buyers – meaning, we want to make it a very scary crime to commit. In turn we want punishment to be increased for buyers and decreased for individuals in prostitution that are being victimized by traffickers. We are trying to create a more protective response & make services more accesible to individuals seeking help or are still in the life.
Under current law, sex buyers, if even caught, are arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. In Texas, after 3 prostitution convictions, the charge is graduated to a felony. However, individuals (victims) in prostitution are much more likely to be arrested and charged for prostitution. Therefore, it is much more likely that a survivor of sex trafficking will have felony charges than the person(s) that victimized them in the first place.
DHP: Thank you all the work you are doing to advocate for children and end human trafficking. Is there anything else you’d like people to know?
DH: If you see something, say something. You can report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.