10:57 AM

‘Sex Trafficking in Houston: Hidden in Plain Sight’

Free, Three-Evening, Virtual Conference Oct. 18-20


By Marie Jacinto

Most Houstonians are aware Houston is a major hub for human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, and may even be aware a large number of nonprofit and governmental agencies are dedicated to combating the problem.

The College of Public Service’s Center for Public Service & Community Research is hosting its vitalvoices conference, “Sex Trafficking in Houston: Hidden in Plain Sight.” The free, three-evening virtual event is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. nightly, Oct. 18-20.

Although sex trafficking is happening in neighborhoods all around us, too many men, women, and children surviving sex trafficking are simply not seen. Only through education and greater awareness can the community identify survivors and traffickers and act.iStock-465915787

The conference is organized by trafficking survivor and UHD Social Work student Rhonda Kuykendall, who also serves on CPS’ Gator Advisory Board and the Texas Human Trafficking Survivor Leader Council. She is an Anti-Child Trafficking Consultant for Texas CASA, and chairs both the Legislative Advocacy Team for Child Advocates of Fort Bend and the Human Trafficking Team for the Fort Bend County DA’s Office.

“I am extremely grateful that so many nonprofits from the region—literally from Conroe to Fort Bend County—are going to participate in this conversation,” said Kuykendall. “Conference attendees will learn about sex trafficking in Houston from all perspectives, including the impact on children and those in our prison system. We will also hear the voices of survivors and of mothers whose daughters did not survive.”

Conference Topics

Tuesday, Oct. 18
“What Really Is Sex Trafficking?”: Topics include grooming, who is at risk, addressing the demand for sex buying, and establishing self-care.

Wednesday, Oct. 19
“Meeting the Needs of Survivors”: Topics include economic empowerment for survivors, understanding vulnerable populations, programs for at-risk youth and adults, prosecuting traffickers and buyers, and a survivor panel.

Thursday, Oct. 20
“Social Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?”: This event will showcase the work of three local nonprofits working to advocate for legislative change at the state level.

Conference Presenters

  • Nikki Bowie, Mady’s Movement
  • Jamey Caruthers, Street Grace
  • Becca Cary, Hands of Justice
  • Kathy Givens, Twelve11
  • Kathryn Griffin, Harris County Constable Office, Precinct 1
  •  Ashley Harkness, Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office
  • Rhonda Kuykendall, Texas CASA
  • Joe Madison, Demand Disruption
  • Christa Mayfield, Unbound Houston
  • Catherine McAdoo, Santa Maria Hostel
  • Craig Priesmeyer, Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office                   
  • Tina Stahl, Emerging Grace Ministries
  • Lana Turner
  • Lindsey Wilkerson, Children at Risk

“Our vitalvoices series brings together scholars and practitioners to speak on the most pressing issues of our time,” stated Steven Villano, Director of the Center for Public Service & Community Research. 

Kuykendall adds, “I can’t think of a more important issue to tackle than human trafficking, and my hope is by the end of this conference, participates gain a better understanding of legislative advocacy and know specific calls to action to act.”

Register online here.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.