The Issue

Understanding Human Trafficking

Human trafficking has become an almost daily topic in today’s news-cycle. The media narrative, however,  would leave most Americans believing that it is primarily something that happens to foreign nationals.  Statistically, in the U.S., American born victims outnumber foreign national victims about 10 to 1.  

There is an urgent need for us to learn, care, and take immediate action. While it is true that trafficking impacts adults and minors, American children are having their lives stolen and being forced into the sex-trade right here in the U.S. at an alarming rate. Minors are coerced, mostly through deception combined with violence, to work in child pornography, strip clubs and brothels by human traffickers. This is known as Domestic Minor Sex-Trafficking or DMST. This issue affects both boys and girls; the single largest demographic is American girls aged 12 to 14.

Traffickers recruit and find children with great ease, because they rely on the naiveté of children, parents, police officers, judges, medical personnel, educators and the general public.   At one time, most of the risk was for children who were truants and runaways. Today, traffickers have found ways to easily manipulate children from just about all facets of society using social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook, among others.  Victims come from households from all levels of income and education.

There isn't a nice way to explain the harsh reality of human trafficking in the U.S.   When a child goes missing here in the U.S., and a body is not found within a reasonable amount of time, there is an extremely high probability that the child is being trafficked.   There has been much re-framing of the issue of missing children.  More and more evidence indicates that children who are thought to be missing or runaways have actually been caught up in this horrendous world of domestic minor sex-trafficking.  

A missing child disappears a mile-per-minute.  In one hour they are 60 miles away.  Within 2 days, there is no telling where a child is located.  A local police department can only do so much once a victim is taken elsewhere.  Sadly, missing case files become what is known as  “cold cases.”  Ironically, almost all children in the sex-trade have been arrested in multiple cities for doing what they are being forced to do, yet they are not being identified as victims.  

Traffickers are nomadic and move around often to avoid prosecution.  When detected by police, a rescue opportunity is often missed and instead becomes simply an arrest. No one connects the dots--that this 14 year old sex-worker is actually someone’s missing little girl that’s been missing for 2 years.  Thankfully, we are seeing changes take place.  While great strides have been made to update and improve legislation, provide tools for prosecutors, train law enforcement and even rescue victims, it is clear that the effort to provide treatment for these young victims is lagging far behind other initiatives to deal with the aftermath of this crime.