At UnBound, we believe that every person has a unique part to play in bringing an end to human trafficking. That’s why we encourage everyone (regardless of your career, age, or background) to get involved. Volunteers, survivors, and partners are truly the faces of UnBound; we wouldn’t be who we are without you! Below are some thoughts from Liz Buice, a local attorney and longtime volunteer trainer with UnBound.
Elizabeth is a Waco attorney and longtime volunteer with UnBound. Liz recently opened her own practice where she represents children in foster care. Before UnBound existed, Liz felt God calling her to do something about human trafficking. She heard about UnBound and got involved in training; Liz has been a faithful partner ever since!
Liz is passionate about raising awareness about human trafficking because “homeless and foster children are really susceptible to being trafficked.” She’s even worked with kids who have experienced trafficking.
Without awareness of human trafficking, the community’s ability to carry out justice suffers, according to Liz. Before opening her own practice, Liz was a prosecutor at the D.A.’s office and she worked on a few trafficking cases. Using an example from Julia Walsh’s case, Liz said: “The laws are there [to protect people against human trafficking]… but a fact pattern that amounts to trafficking could also be charged as prostitution, possibly assault-dating violence, there’s all kinds of causes of action… but until the last 5 years or so, all of these cases were probably coming in and being charged as something different. Not necessarily that those other charges were wrong, because those things also happened. It’s just it wasn’t being recognized that it could also be charged as trafficking.”
Liz drew a comparison between Waco and other communities where community members aren’t so adamant about stopping human trafficking. She told us “In different parts of the state, lawyers will talk about places where they got eight years on a sexual assault of a child case and my colleagues, and I from here are like ‘that’s awful,’ but they’re so proud of it. So we come away thinking we’re in the promised land of juries because we’ve educated the community about [these issues] and people in this community are passionate about stopping those things.”
For Liz, the key is that an educated community creates an educated jury panel. She explained this connection, saying: “In voir dire, in jury selection, you can only do so much education, like you have thirty minutes or you have an hour. You can try to educate them in that amount of time, but it makes such a difference if your panel already knows some of the things that you’re trying to tell them or you have one or two members of the panel who [are educated on trafficking] and you can call on them and they can educate the rest of the panel. The more we educate the community, the more it comes back for us.”
This education is crucial in people being able to both identify and fight for a victim of trafficking. Liz said that “a lot of victims of trafficking have had a rough go of it. In Julia’s case, she was a victim. She, in a lot of people’s eyes, could have also been looked at as a perpetrator.”
“So, unless you have a jury who are prepared mentally to see somebody labeled as the victim or the survivor, then they’re not going to be ready to go to bat for them. And that education is a lot more than you could do in a voir dire time amount. So you’ve got to educate people to recognize her as the trauma victim that she is.”
If people don’t have an understanding of trafficking, they will treat victims like criminals. Our community will continue to support traffickers instead of victims and allow injustice to occur. Raising awareness about human trafficking both helps our community prevent trafficking and support victims of trafficking! Liz is passionate about training because she sees how our community can transform lives when we come together and say trafficking will not happen in our city.
How could you use your gifts, talents and resources to fight human trafficking?
Written by Nikki Thompson
Professional Writing Intern, UnBound Waco