Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. While we would all agree human trafficking happens in other countries, would we agree it happens in the United States of America? Would we agree that it happens in our own community? I doubt we would, but it does. In fact, in the USA human trafficking is a $9.8 billion dollar per year industry. Most will find this hard to believe but Victims’ Intervention Program has provided services to victims of trafficking over the last few years. We are not exempt from this terrible crime.

Human trafficking is the SECOND largest criminal industry in the world. Currently it produces $32 billion dollars of annual revenue worldwide. Human trafficking is second only to the drug industry. Experts believe that human trafficking will surpass the drug industry for the sad reason that you can
sell a person repeatedly, but you can only sell a drug once.

Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to manipulate victims into engaging in commercial sex act or labor or services in exchange for something of monetary value (i.e. transportation, a place to sleep, food, and perceived safety). When victims are minors, there does not have to be force, fraud or coercion present. Victims are used as a physical commodity to earn a profit for the trafficker.

Traffickers and pimps use physical, emotional and psychological abuse to coerce young women, girls and boys into a life in sex trafficking. A person being pulled off the street by a stranger is not the usual way this happens. (Similar to how in 4/5 of sexual assaults the assailant is known to the victim.)

Traffickers often use young men to recruit girls from middle schools and high schools. They also target other areas that attract youth such as malls, parks and even group homes. They take the approach that no one understands them as he does, they start dating and begin to form a perceived relationship. Traffickers are con men. They are selling the idea of a better life. They are selling an idea of love.

Girls entering puberty are easy targets for traffickers. Girls at that age are often uncomfortable with their bodies, they might have low self-esteem and/or they might feel that no one really understands them, including their parents. Traffickers prey on these insecurities. They will say things such as “Your parents don’t understand you, but I do”. They tell the girls how beautiful they are. They start dating and acting like a “boyfriend”. A lot of recruitment and grooming takes place.

The average age a child is first exploited through prostitution is 12-14 years of age. The average age that men first buy sex is 21. Minors cannot legally consent to having sex. No one chooses a life of prostitution. Children are prostituted.

Warning signs to look for: Changes in behavior such as absences from home/school, dress, attitude and/or signs of abuse; changes in lifestyle such as money, material possessions; and changes in peers such as a new boyfriend (particularly and older one), new friends, parties, and/or drugs and alcohol.

If you want to learn more about human trafficking, please call Victims’ Intervention Program at 570-253-4401. If you suspect trafficking, report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.