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UT Tyler Professor Addresses Human Trafficking in Texas

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October 30, 2018

Media Contact: Beverley Golden
Agency Director
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.566.7303

The University of Texas at Tyler Associate Professor of Nursing, Dr. Cathy Miller, is using a $450,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice to support victims of human trafficking.

Miller has been working on this project, titled "Specialized Services and Mentoring for Child and Youth Victims of Sex Trafficking," over the past two years through the Texas Coastal Border Region Human Trafficking Task Force, which she co-chairs.

"Texas has a huge problem with human trafficking, and it's been marginally unrecognized up until the last few years since child sex trafficking and human trafficking is a hidden crime," said Miller. "It is really a public health problem. That's where I come in as a nurse—to help decrease the mental and physical health problems these victims and survivors have."

The grant is specifically for programs that offer mentoring and support services to victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking, as well as provide community awareness activities to help prevent further victimization. The task force focuses on these initiatives by advancing the collaboration between law enforcement, health care and victim service providers.

"Dr. Miller's work is at the forefront of efforts to meet the unique needs of sex trafficking survivors. This cutting-edge project is the result of several years' work to develop a multi-agency collaboration with partners such as Homeland Security, United States Marshals and other community, state and federal agencies," said Dr. Barbara Haas, associate dean for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Miller said grant funds also will expand community education and awareness, increase capacity for the Empowerment Coalition of Texas (EChO) mentoring program for child sex trafficking victims and provide and increase victim health services, as well as help research the effects of mentoring programs with trafficking victims.

"There's never been evidence-based research done on the best way to mentor child sex trafficking victims, and I think the Department of Justice giving this grant speaks to the need of programs and research like this," said Miller. "We seek to try and help these victims with their education, employment, housing, food, clothes, etc. We want to empower them and help them realize the life they have right now doesn't have to dictate the life they have in the future."

Miller began the project in the coastal border region of Texas and now hopes to provide services to the East Texas region.

"We have an eye towards expanding services to East Texas, and have already begun collaborating with the UT Tyler criminal justice department and College of Nursing and Health Sciences to advance research," Miller said. "This is a multi-disciplinary problem that requires a multi-disciplinary approach."

For more information about this project, contact Miller, cathymiller@uttyler.edu or 903.566.7320.

A member of the prestigious UT System, The University of Texas at Tyler focuses on student success and innovative research in the more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered. With more than 10,000 students, UT Tyler has facilities in Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston.

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