Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Eradicate: to destroy completely; put an end to.
2 million children are trafficked for sex worldwide. 250,000 of those children live here in the United States.
10,000 of those children are smuggled into America every year.
How much is 250,000? The 2017 Super Bowl was held in the NRG Stadium, holding just over 70,000 people. Filling that stadium three times would still not represent all of the children being trafficked in America today.
To fully understand what we are fighting against, communities need to know how child trafficking is happening in America. Three of the ways children are trafficked in America are: Internet luring, sparse parental supervision, and smuggling.
The world of sex trafficking is difficult to comprehend, but so vitally important to be aware of. If we are not aware of these children and are not looking, then we certainly will not find them. Part of O.U.R.’s mission is to help the public become aware of this problem and to let them know that there are people fighting for these children.
Here is some information that will help you understand a small part of the world of trafficking.
1. Internet Luring
Tim Ballard has previously posed the question to parents, “Would you let your kids go bar hopping at night?” With the obvious answer being no, he followed up with explaining that without the proper education and protection, letting kids run free on social media can be comparable to bar hopping. Hundreds of thousands of traffickers are looking for children and trying to figure out how to lure them out through the internet. Traffickers will groom children over the internet, targeting those with lower self esteem and eventually moving on to meeting in person.
This may be difficult to believe if you are not aware of this problem and have never seen evidence of this kind of activity. You are not alone. When Tim Ballard offered tools to the Chief of Police in a small California city, he declined, saying he didn’t think they had that problem there. Tim made him a deal. “Give us two hours,” he said.
In 15 minutes, they identified over 60 predators seeking children as young as 9 years old. In two months they were able to find and arrest 40 of those predators.
It is happening here in America.
A way to combat this problem is through education and communication. Tim Ballard suggests that you educate yourself by doing a “deep dive into what all of these social media platforms can actually give your child access to, and then educate that child.” Explain to them what they should and should not do to protect themselves. It is important not to scare them, but to allow them to have enough education about the subject so they can understand the threat. If there are 2 million children being trafficked worldwide, there is an obvious demand.
Predators will groom children through the internet, seeking after the most vulnerable. Those who seem to have low self esteem or lack of friends may be looking for attention and they may get it from a trafficker. Ask your kids if they have ever received a request from someone that they don’t know- it’s a very common thing. A predator could easily be posing as an attractive man, but you do not know who really is behind the screen. They then begin the stages of trafficking. You can learn about those in the blog post: Protecting our Children From Sex Trafficking.
2. Sparse Parental Supervision
In foreign countries, traffickers will sometimes lure young girls into their industry by offering them a spot in a modeling school. The parents, often in poverty, agree that it would put their child in a better place than where they are at home. Unfortunately, these “modeling” opportunities end up pushing these young girls into the trafficking industry.
In America, there are similar cases where victims are in “modeling” school, but they can still go home at night. However, they are threatened with their family being killed if they tell anyone about their “clients” or what is really going on at the modeling school. This way, the traffickers can control them even when they are at home. It is important to learn the signs of victims of trafficking so that you can help identify these children in your community.
In addition, trafficking in the U.S. looks more like “my boyfriend is my pimp” rather than kids living in a trailer down the street from a brothel. Instead of brothels, these kids are exploited in hotels. Hotels are the replacement for brothels in the U.S.
A common reason for a minor to be picked up by a pimp is if they don’t have anyone taking care of them or if they decide to run away from home. Unfortunately, traffickers focus on victims that would be most vulnerable, such as in rehab facilities, malls, homeless shelters, etc.
According to The Mom’s View, it is important to show that parents are active in their children’s lives. They say that a predator’s greatest fear is getting caught, so if the predators knows that the parent is attentive, they will steer clear.
3. Smuggled In
Out of the 250,000 estimated children in America being exploited for sex, 10,000 of them are smuggled in each year from other countries. Tim Ballard described how the traffickers know the borders and are able to find ways to smuggle these kids in. When these kids come to America, they are stuck with their captors because they have nowhere else to turn.
The Polaris Project pointed out that traffickers often understand the vulnerabilities of their victims because they make sure to seek victims that share their ethnic or cultural background. This principle is also true with Americans, which is why it is important to be aware how the traffickers find these kids. With Americans, it is mostly online. Americans are the number one consumer and producer of child porn in the world. This is both a national and international Problem because often Americans will travel out of the country to exploit young children in other countries. If these predators hear of opportunities in other countries, they will respond to the ad online and begin to travel over there. The police get them in the airport on the way out.
The point is, this very much a national and international problem. The traffickers that exist in all over the world capitalize on the American demand for these children.
There is hope, however.
The hope is you. With so many supporters of O.U.R. and its cause, it is possible to eradicate child sex trafficking. Spreading awareness, learning the signs, community campaigns, strengthening the laws – these are just a few of the things being done to help stop this issue.
It is important to remember that these problems can be dealt with through clear communication with your children and safety measures online.