When one thinks of human trafficking, the act of moving a person or persons from one place to another through coercion, fraud, deception or force for the purpose of labor or more commonly the sex trade, most have visions of Thailand or Mexico. Human trafficking is more common than most people realize inside the United States. The United States is principally viewed as a transit and destination country for trafficking and it is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked to the U.S. annually. Less talked about is the number of US citizens particularly children and teens trafficked within the U.S. each year.
The FBI estimates that there are well over 100,000 children and teens in the United States most of them young girls being trafficked in the sex trade. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and some U.S. territories.
Experts say many victims are from what would be considered "good" families, who are lured and coerced by experienced predators. Victims are no longer just runaways and children that have been abandoned. They are young girls, from good families that are lured into unwilling prostitution with promises of work, money, clothing and fame in modeling and acting. These predators know where children are, seek out their vulnerabilities and exploit them. Teens are lured and coerced and often physically assaulted and threatened with violence and even death for them and/or their family. In order to rescue these children from the streets, first they must be identified.
Identifying a Victim of Human Trafficking
(From US Department of State)
Has unexplained absences from school for a period of time, and is therefore a truant
Demonstrates an inability to attend school on a regular basis
Chronically runs away from home
Makes references to frequent travel to other cities
Exhibits bruises or other physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression, or fear
Lacks control over her or his schedule or identification documents
Is hungry-malnourished or inappropriately dressed (based on weather conditions or surroundings)
Shows signs of drug addiction
Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior, or material possessions (e.g., has expensive items)
Makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms
Has a "boyfriend" who is noticeably older (10+ years)
Makes references to terminology of the commercial sex industry that are beyond age-specific norms; engages in promiscuous behavior and may be labeled "fast" by peers
Resources and Publications on Human Trafficking
One of the best ways to help combat human trafficking is to raise awareness and learn more about how to identify victims. Information on human trafficking can be found on the following Web sites:
U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Missing Persons
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Investigative Programs, Crimes Against Children
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children