Sex Trafficking

Texas Dad Pushes for Parents of Adult Women to Be Able to Have Them Committed for Selling Sex

Reforms would also raise minimum-age threshold for Texas strippers from 18 to 21.



picture alliance / Frank May/Newscom

Texas father's story of "Snapchat sex traffickers" has gone viral as he pushes for legislation that would, among other things, allow parents to have their 18- to 20-year-old offspring involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities for engaging in sex work. His measure would also raise the minimum-age threshold for working at strip clubs and other sexually-oriented business from 18 to 21. He is selling it as a way to fight human trafficking, and says Texas lawmakers are on board.

The Fort Bend County father, John Clark, became interested in the issue last spring after his 18-year-old daughter, Heather, ran away from home and may have been having sex for money. Clark has claimed repeatedly that Heather was lured by a sex trafficker whom she met on Snapchat as a 16-year-old, and he strongly implies that this man abducted or held her captive and forced her into prostitution. But while it's understandable why Clark might want to diminish his daughter's agency here, the facts he offers suggest Heather left her parents' home willingly, did not want to return, and only did so after Clark had her tracked down by FBI agents and private investigators.

According to Clark, the ordeal started when his daughter left home on Saturday, April 30, to go to the gym. Once there, Heather ditched her car and cell phone and headed with friends to a party. When she didn't return home, the Clarks reported their daughter missing with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office.

Six days later, on May 5, Heather contacted her parents and told them to call off the search—and reward money—for her. "She's said that she doesn't want to come home," her dad told the Houston Chronicle. "We don't know what is behind her choice."

At this point, Heather's family and Fort Bend police still believed, understandably, that she may have been abducted and was only ordering her family to stop looking for her under duress. The cellphone abandonment certainly raises red flags—what kind of 21st-Century teen ditches their phone in their car before going to a party?

Perhaps one who's worried her parents are tracking it. According to a May 21 Facebook post from John Clark, he and his wife had been concerned about Heather's friends and phone-app usage long before she ran away, and taken extreme measures to monitor her whereabouts physical and digital. After laying out his theory of how sexual predators "groom" teen girls to be their victims, a process he believed befell his daughter, Clark writes that we "may get the impression [they] were uninvolved parents" who didn't pay attention to Heather. "That was not the case."

Heather's parents "went through her phone several times a week," her dad explains. At home, the 18-year-old wasn't allowed to take her cellphone upstairs to her bedroom and "when she went upstairs she had to leave her phone on the kitchen counter, so we could check it." They required Heather to provide them with "all her passwords," sometimes grabbed her phone out of her hands "unexpectedly (before she could log out of the app)" to check her recent Snapchat communications, and installed a GPS tracker on her car.

In addition to monitoring the car GPS "every time she left the house," Clark notes that they "Facetimed her every time she went out to make sure she was where she was supposed to be, and she was with the people she was supposed to be seeing." (These were "friends from high school," he later points out, because human trafficking isn't "limited to the inner city.") Heather was grounded "every time she had contact with one of the people we thought were trouble," and Clark writes that he "went face-to-face with a few of them and assertively demanded they stay away from my daughter."

Clark doesn't say if he had tracking software installed on Heather's phone, but in his advice to other parents, he writes: "Children of parents have no right to privacy. We have a responsibility to search EVERYTHING. Install an application like mobistealth or Mobil-spy on your kid's phone. Mobile-spy monitors a few more things, mobistealth doesn't let the child know a monitoring application is installed."

We don't know what Heather was thinking when she left home, obviously, exactly what her relationship was with the man involved, in what manner she was involved in the sex trade, or how she came to be involved thusly. But from everything her dad has told us here, I can't say I'd blame an 18-year-old for wanting to get away from that environment. Maybe Heather didn't even mean to leave for very long, but soon she's looking at team of private investigators, local cops, and volunteer federal agents trying to find her, in addition to her dad.

On May 8, eight days after she left her parents' home, Heather was found at an apartment with the man she met on Snapchat, about whom her father has provided few details. "WE HAVE HEATHER!" he posted to Facebook that day. "Praise God we have her! … So much happened behind the scenes that we could not communicate publicly, but trust me it was an army! Countless thousands of prayers, volunteers who were AMAZING, private investigates, the FBI, and a team of former special forces that were a boots on the ground rescue operation."

On May 10, Clark posted, "Now is not the time to press Heather for details about her ordeal," adding that "the people responsible are well known the FBI's trafficking task force. Regardless we still don't have all the answers about all the relevant people, locations, and events. There are also people we believe were involved (I have to be careful how I phrase things) that are still on the streets."

Since then, Clark has been meeting with Texas and federal lawmakers, circulating an online petition, and reaching out to the media in service of legal reforms that he calls the "cornerstones" of his fight against human trafficking:

  • Changing the minimum age requirement for working at a sexually-oriented business (such as strip clubs or adult-video stores) to 21 years old
  • Raising criminal penalties for promoting or compelling the prostitution of 18- to 20-year-olds above the penalties for adults generally
  • "Providing extended parental guardianship in specific circumstances and emergencies"

Any period of "extended parental guardianship" would be temporary. The guardianship period could be triggered if at least four of following six criteria are met: the young adult 1) lives at home, 2) is still in high-school, 3) is a full-time college student, 4) was claimed as a dependent by the parent(s) on the prior year's tax return, 5) has never been married, and 6) has not been the subject of any child protective services (CPS) investigations.

It's a pretty chilling idea—both in general and under the circumstances. Here is a man who permitted his 18-year-old daughter almost no privacy, went to great lengths to track her down after she left home and told him she didn't want to return, and has publicly assigned more culpability to Snapchat than his daughter for any of it. Perhaps those are normal parental impulses and his response to her disappearance natural, but what he's now asking for is changes to Texas law that would allow him—and the parents of many 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old adults in Texas—to continue treating adult offspring like literal children under the law.

Clark's proposal isn't simply an age-specific or family-oriented version of current processes for assigning guardianship of "incapacitated" adults in Texas or court-ordering psychiatric treatment to those who pose danger to themselves or others. No, what he describes is a way to standardize and expedite the process by which parents can gain guardianship to act on an adult child's behalf "with hospitals, doctors, treatment/therapy facilities, police, etc." regardless of their mental capacity and specifically for "children ensnared by" human trafficking.

Of course, there would be no need for families to assume guardianship of someone currently trapped by traffickers. And if someone was trafficked, rescued, and subsequently too traumatized or otherwise mentally unstable to serve as their own guardian, the courts could assign guardianship to a family member or compel mental-health treatment through other means. Which leaves us with situations in which the "child" has reached the age of adulthood, is or has been engaging in prostitution, claims to be doing so willingly, and has not been found otherwise unsound.

Obviously, someone's "child" who is over age 18, psychologically healthy, and proclaiming to have participated in prostitution willingly is no longer a human-trafficking victim. They're a sex worker.

Under Clark's proposal, a 19-year-old single woman who lives on her own, attends college, and makes money selling sex in her spare time could find herself back under her parent's rule (and subject to their medical whims) so long as her parents were never investigated by Texas CPS and had claimed her on tax returns the previous year.

"The next Texas session, beginning in January 2017, is the perfect time to introduce [this] legislation," states Clark in his online petition. He is "currently seeking counsel to craft the careful wording that will be necessary for the law change to hold up in court," and has since May "met many times with Senators, Representatives, Governor Abbott's and Attorney General Paxton's staff, and Anti-HT organizations."

NEXT: Anthony Fisher Talks Gary Johnson's Foreign Policy on Kennedy Tonight

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Clark doesn’t say if he had tracking software installed on Heather’s phone…

    Burner phones. They’re not just for Avon Barksdale’s crew anymore.

  2. After laying out his theory of how sexual predators “groom” teen girls to be their victims, a process he believed befell his daughter, Clark writes that we “may get the impression [they] were uninvolved parents” who didn’t pay attention to Heather. “That was not the case.”

    He simply sucks at grooming.

  3. I don’t know whether the young lady was trafficked or not, but if so there are laws against it, laws which would protect her even if she was 21 or over.

    Trafficking adults against their will is a crime, and has been since at least 1865.

    What happens when she reaches 21? What happens if her father thinks she’s being trafficked at age 22?

  4. Good grief. I had to eject kids from my home with a crowbar. They are all doing fine, but they visit a lot and I visit them a lot. As a matter of fact I just got home a couple of hours ago because I spent the day at my son’s house. I fried catfish and we ate until our eyes were popping out. I played with my granddaughter until my back hurt from crawling around on the floor until I could hardly get up ( she is 6 mos old) and then we sat around talking and joking, laughing until our faces hurt.

    Looking at this father’s story I am thinking it isnt the daughter that needs committing.

    1. You monster!

    2. Yeah can we commit him snd everyone who signed his petition. They’re obviously a threat to society.

    3. Yeah. It sounds like the dad fucking sucks.

  5. Sounds like the girl was trying to escape a painfully controlling dad who wants to now control other people’s kids too.

    This is what a statist fuck looks like.

    1. I don’t know, but it smacks of someone who put all his energy very publicly into a crusade that turned out not to have been necessary, but rather than admit that fact, he’s instead going to ride his wave of attention right unto the rocks of legislation. But I don’t see it happening.

      1. I dunno… most of these Texas legislators are old-fashioned-family-values moral busybodies who’d jump at the chance to support a freedom-eroding law just to earn brownie points with their constituents.

        I remember not too long ago, someone convinced the lawmakers to pass legislation ending the Texas Lottery, playing up the old “immoral/detriment to poor people” angle. Fortunately it didn’t make it to the Governor.

        But speaking as someone who moved out permanently and had his own apartment at age 20 – and met quite a few young ladies still living at home and letting their parents control their lives – legislation like this chills me to the bone. Because it’s one of those things that the socon lawmakers view as “feel-good” laws.

    2. Either that, or Dad thought his daughter was Getting Out of Control and Running With the Wrong Crowd.

      Depending on how wrong the wrong crowd was, his concerns might have been legitimate.

      But this is speculation, because really we just have this guy’s account, which, let’s say, is susceptible of different interpretations.

      At this stage, all we can say is “if she was trafficked, there’s laws on the books to put the traffickers away. No need for expanded civil-commitment laws.”

      1. Depending on how wrong the wrong crowd was, his concerns might have been legitimate.

        It ought to be clarified that being legitimately concerned about the crowd that your adult kid is running with is OK. Trying to force an adult to bow to your will is not. (I’m not implying that you think otherwise) A kid’s gotta leave the nest sometime and will make mistakes. It’s part of adapting to adulthood.

        If he had legitimate concerns, he could have paid those investigators to research the people he believed were trying to harm his kid and turn over the evidence they found to the police to have them arrested. Instead he acted like a domineering asshole, which seems very much the pattern he and his wife had established.

        There are helicopter parents, and this type who are apparently Apache Attack Helicopters. Fuck me, I’m glad that my domineering parents at least left me alone to be my own person when I moved out.

        1. I’m glad that my domineering parents at least left me alone to be my own person when I moved out.

          Me too. As stifling as my parents were, at least my dad’s mantra was “after 18, you get a map, a ham sandwich, and a handshake”.

          1. I remember on a local radio show, one of the guys on the air reminisced about his high school graduation, and right after the ceremony, his dad told him “Congratulations. Get out.”

            I wish I could do that with my kids, but my wife would probably veto that idea. Besides, there’s a lot of issues entrenching young adults at home these days. Chief among them the economy and the price of renting/real estate.

  6. …and had claimed her on tax returns the previous year.

    The United States Tax Code. Is there anything you can’t do?

  7. I will say that I find it in poor taste for ENB to attach a picture of a Snapchat from a rainbow party to this piece.

    1. Dear ENB, ignore Fist’s provocations and do *not* google rainbow party.

    2. I know, a video would have been better.

  8. “after his 18-year-old daughter, Heather, ran away from home”

    Umm… ok, there is something that is not exactly right about that snippet right there, let me think here for a minute and I’ll get back to this chat room.

    1. I know! She was golden till 26. What’s the rush?

      1. My daughter is 26 now and graduating from college this month and still living in my house. She’s such a special snowflake, but it’s time to man the show shovel. I know I’m a monster, I just don’t care.

        1. I hope you were at least enough of a tyrant to ensure she’s graduating with a marketable degree.

          1. Nursing, I’m pretty sure it’s marketable. She’s pretty immune to the prog shit after being exposed to my libertarian propaganda for years now. My evil plan has worked!

        2. Forget the snow shovel. What you want is a Rental Agreement and Personal Services Contract.

    2. She ran as fast as she could.

      1. I did the same shortly after my 18th. I mean I was never home much anyway, so I’m still not sure if anyone really noticed.

  9. If you want to cut down on Snapchat hoes, just outlaw Snapchat’s dog filter.

    1. Then they’ll just start using the cat filter and all hell will break loose.

      1. Cat filter? What is that? This reeks of anti-cat catism to me. And I for one am not going to take it! Cats are people too! Now summon the apparatus so that we may post another cute kitty video!

  10. Oh, and BTW, good job of getting back on track, ENB. I guess I’m going to have to forgive you for that earlier Trump fluff article.

    I just need to remember now why I should boycott Reason until they submit to my demands. Oh yeah, late nite links! And the name is NOT negotiable!

  11. Warning, another Trump article above. Sigh…

  12. Wow, this guy is the ultimate control freak. His poor daughter. And, an 18 year old doesn’t “run away”, she “leaves”.
    Hopefully, this uptight Agile will have a strike and leave his family much better off.

    1. Asshole, not Agile. I don’t Agile has ever been uptight.

      1. *doubt not don’t. Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, this auto spell has reached truly Tulpa levels of idiocacy.

        1. i hate my phone. i turned all that off.

          1. Did you figure out the problem with your truck?

            1. someone has my multimeter. I got a new one coming tomorrow. My limited testing says alternator is the root.

              1. Yeah. Occam’s razor.

                  1. Forget about the meter. Sand the frame where the ground connects. If the truck runs with the battery disconnected, is probably not the alternator, it’s a connection somewhere. Redo all the connections on the alternator and battery. You’ll probably find a bunch of old crappy oxidized connections.
                    You did test it by disconnecting the battery while the truck was running?

                    1. Doesn’t disconnecting the battery while the truck’s running f-up the alternator?

                    2. On these new cars? Maybe. I really don’t know. But Doom has like an early 70’s model. And the easiest way to test the alternator is to start the vehicle, which uses the battery. If you have to jump it, then yay the battery. Once the trick is running, disconnect the NEGATIVE wire to the battery. If the vehicle keeps running, then the alternator is at least putting out enough to run the vehicle.
                      Year, make, and model all feature in, but if the vehicle is made for the American market, i.e. not a 74 Jenson Healy, you should be good.

                    3. “check the battery, not “yay”

    2. “And, an 18 year old doesn’t “run away”, she “leaves”

      What type of 5th century barbarian are you?

  13. Vengeful adult absconds overbearing family, but is still young and probably not the best at making life choices.

  14. I’m not entirely clear why his completely failed approach to parenting makes him qualified to write laws for other people’s children. Who would have thought that treating your adult child like a ward of the state in some 19th century insane asylum would make them want to leave?

    1. Yeah, the fact that he is getting a hearing from all these lawmakers is truly disturbing. Someone should ask him “dude, your daughter grew up to be a prostitute, why the hell should we take parenting advise from you?”

      1. Also makes you wonder what kind of cognitive dissonance is required to be a Texas resident who is proud of their “small government”.

        1. A “small government” recently ranked FORTY-FUCKING-NINTH in personal freedoms, might I remind everyone.

          I love my state, I just hate the people who run it (and the voters who enable them).

      2. +10 I’m getting turned on knowing she put up an add on Backpage and was swallowing loads given to her by random men her dads age for $100 an hour. I wonder if she was hot?

  15. I can’t image the lengths she went through to go to a high school party, or any of the other stuff teens do.

    1. And, here’s a lesson to you young parents out there: if you want your kid to rebel, give them something to rebel against.
      The first girl I ever “knew”, in a biblical sense, was 15, totally out of control, and, like a cliche, was the daughter of a Mormon preacher.

      1. Mormons don’t have preachers, so questioning your story of “having” the daughter of a Mormon preacher…

        I see that’s the second post of yours I’ve picked at. No offense intended, I’m genuinely interested in the alternator thing.

        1. Hell, i don’t know. I’m 47, now. I was probably 16 or 17 when i lost my virginity, my memory is probably inexact. Her dad was some kind of Mormon somebody. And no offense taken, ever.

  16. This guy is mentally unstable, and it is worrisome that his instability is not evident to all involved.

    1. It is Texas…

  17. It’s always the really religious ones that have the most ‘out of control’ kids. I know this from person experience.

    This guy is a complete asshole and should be laughed off the phony stage he’s created for himself. It is not possible for an 18-year old ADULT to Run Away you fucking moron. And stop with this god bless bullshit; again it’s always the religious fucks.

    Maybe if you weren’t such a complete control freak piece of shit, your daughter wouldn’t want to “leave” and rebel against you. Monitoring her every movements, spying on her cell phone. And you want to force your shitty existence onto other people

  18. “Legislation that would, among other things, allow parents to have their 18- to 20-year-old offspring involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities for engaging in sex work.”

    “Sex work”?

    We’re talking about hookers, right?

    Hookers who might be in jail for street walking otherwise?

    These code words aren’t confusing. Are they supposed to be?

    I presume parents are allowed to call the cops and have their hooker adult children thrown in jail now, right?


    1. Ask, but Ken, then the state is in control of the “child”. This asshole wants the state to enforce his authority over his grown daughter. Kinda like the Muslim honor killings of their own children. This guy is just a control freak, and needs to be told to shut up.

      1. *ah not ask. Doom, how do i turn all this auto spell shit off? We old people have problems with the phones.

        1. Are you android? I remember you having a windows phone.
          On mine it was settings, language input, samsung keyboard

          1. No, my windows phone finally (cough) broke! And work bought me Android. Gotta admit though, the windows phone meshes with email and calendar and basically Microsoft office, much much better.
            But I’m still glad it’s gone.

  19. Can you get a restraining order against your parents? Might not be a bad idea in this case.

  20. I’m with dad! Billy Jack can’t be everywhere!

  21. Whiteslavers defile a childhood cancer survivor until her father, with the help of a tough FBI agent and a hardboiled private detective, descends into the underworld of groomers and snapchat to save his daughter from the depths of Hell!
    on the Minnesota Strip

    Oh Yea-ah !

  22. This guy should just start shopping for nursing homes now. I have a feeling the tables will turn hard some day.

  23. Its probably for the best that there’s no alt-text for this one.

  24. John Clark, became interested in the issue last spring after his 18-year-old daughter, Heather, ran away from home . . .

    Also, uhm, 18 years can’t ‘run away from home’. They can choose to ‘leave their parents house and live on their own’ or ‘change their place of residence’ but they aren’t ‘running away’.

    1. Well, I’d have been running. 😉

      Now is not the time to press Heather for details about her ordeal…
      Yeah, we don’t need to get her side of the story.

      Sounds like for Heather being shipped off to a secure facility would have been a step up.

  25. No, this is not a normal parental impulse. This is merely the uptight fundamentalist version of helicopter parenting.

    In the real world yes parents worry about their young adult children and who they are hanging out with but they also recognize that children must be given the freedom and agency to find their own path in the world and by the late teens the role of parent had devolved from control to guidance and support.

  26. She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years…..

    Bye…. bye……

  27. If you go to the petition’s website, linked at the end of the article, you can leave a comment if you sign up for the website without signing the petition. I left one, kind of as an anti-signature. It only takes a second and it’s worth the effort.

  28. While coming to education, the technology has brought many advantages to students and as well as teachers. showbox For example, students can do their homework or assignment with ease and can complete it faster by using the Internet.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.