Don’t ignore the signs of sex trafficking

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

We hear about the dangers of drunk driving, we hear about the dangers of texting while driving and we hear about the dangers of drinking the punch at parties. Something we don’t teach today’s children about though are the dangers of sex trafficking , a billion dollar industry in the United States that targets young girls.

According to a study by Urban Institute, sex trafficking serves as an underground economy that generates billions. This is repulsive because the signs are right in our backyard, but we’ve never been taught to recognize them. People in the United States need to be more aware of the dangers of this crime and learn how to recognize signs.

According to a KCEN-TV special report, traffickers will search for young girls who look vulnerable, meaning they can spark a conversation with or easily persuade the girl to come meet them. They will then post the girl to a trafficking website, where buyers will purchase a child for sex. In the end, the buyer gets sex, the trafficker gets money and the child gets abused. Victims can be as young as 12 years old, as referenced in the special report. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the top three states that cases were reported in are California, Texas and Florida, respectively. As of June 30, 13,897 calls to the hotline have been made and 4,460 human trafficking cases have been reported this year.

According to KCEN-TV the buyers could be absolutely anyone, as court records have shown they can range from neighbors to pastors to police officers. With the industry being so prevalent and the criminals being all around us, there has to be a stronger presence of prevention techniques and lessons for children to recognize dangerous situations, and know how to get out of them.

In Chapel almost every semester, a guest speaker comes to teach students about the prevalence and dangers of sex trafficking in America. Last semester, Theresa Flores came and spoke about her experiences a victim. Her talk started with a powerful video showing child victims in many people’s hometowns, followed by her story. Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain and director of worship and Chapel, said he is working on getting a speaker for the spring semester.

Britain Seago, a sophomore journalism major from Lantana, is currently working on anti-trafficking research. She said the main thing that she has seen is investing in people or in children is one of the biggest prevention strategies. By investing in our friend and people in our lives, we prevent them from seeking comfort and validation through potential traffickers on the internet. Don’t blow off sex trafficking as something that happens far away because it happens here too. If we push it away, we diminish the effects.

It’s important that other schools across the country educate students about this awful act that takes place right underneath our eyes. Girls are being sold for sex; it’s prostitution of minors. Especially in elementary and middle schools, children should be taught not to talk to strangers online, not to share too much personal information and not to go to strange places alone.

We should all also be taught to recognize the signs. Schools, universities and workplaces should teach people that when they see signs of physical abuse, or someone working lots of long and late hours and displaying many anxious habits, something may not be right.

Sex trafficking is pretty much modern day slavery and should not be tolerated any longer. It is a crime that should not be ignored; everyone should be taught from a young age that this should not be tolerated. In addition to education, if you see something or someone suspicious that could be trafficking, be sure to report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.