Some 18,000 to 20,000 missing children incidents are reported every year. Of homeless, runaway or ‘throwaway youth’, a third are lured into prostitution or offered money for sex within 48 hours of leaving home. Of the 500,000 children in the U.S. in some form of foster care, vulnerability is especially high, according to Brent Currence of the Ohio Missing Persons Unit of the State Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation at last week’s Ohio Chief Probation Officer’s Conference.
Essentially, human trafficking amounts to slavery, whether its labor trafficking, compelled service, or sex trafficking. Labor trafficking might happen from debt bondage. Compelled service could be in childcare, domestic or janitorial work, agriculture, garment work, street peddling, construction trades or manufacturing, or in the restaurant trades. People might be recruited by newspaper ads for modeling jobs or other fake employment agencies with offers too good to be true. Acquaintances or family might recruit the victim and then there are abduction stories as naïve folks are lured through front businesses, he explained.
His presentation explored risk factors which include neglect or abuse at home, a troubled home life, mental disability, or not having a positive adult role model. For those trafficked into labor, many have experienced high unemployment, discrimination, an environment of crime, lived in poverty, or come from a country with political conflict, corruption, or where labor trafficking is commonly practiced. Frequent moves, high density living environment, restricted movement/communication or requiring an interpreter to be the intermediary might be indicators of trafficking activity. Not having access to one’s identity papers-driver’s license, social security card/number, birth certificate, cell phone, bank account, or personal possessions could be a red flag. Did you ever wonder about a Central American roofing crew who arrived in the same van, worked in blistering heat with two short 15 minute breaks, didn’t speak English, and were controlled by a tough crew boss? Perhaps the kitchen crew in an Asian or Mexican restaurant made you wonder, or the unlikely couple in a convention hotel- a young girl with an older man.
Teen runaways are vulnerable. Naïve teens often fall for false advertising, modeling, acting or dancing opportunities or ads on social media where they share photos or other personal information. A pimp might attempt to gain the child’s trust and pretend he cares and will look after them. Often a pimp- or his female recruiter will lavish the victim with treats like shopping trips, visits to salons or out to eat or drink. The victim is systematically isolated from people they know until they are forced to rely on the pimp. The teen is gradually lured into sex, or groomed to become an eventual escort through psychological –and sometimes physical control. Often, they’re controlled through violence and later, through drugs-upon which they become dependent. Sometimes photos or private information is used as threat or blackmail. The internet has opened a new world of potential cyber-victimization. A teen could be tracked via their cell phone GPS.
You might notice a victim by their canned responses, the hovering presence of a person who seems to control them, or by the child exhibiting hesitant or fearful behavior. They might have tattoos (branding), new uncharacteristic clothing, be evasive, or fail to make eye contact. They might have bruises and are frequently absent or out of contact. Often, victims are brainwashed or manipulated; told false promises or lied to that this is a good way to improve their life, or ‘its only a time or two’. Though they might feel shame, they compensate by becoming boisterous or develop an attitude.
Currence shared several stories. Two young teen girls were chatted up at a Dairy Queen not far from home by a man. His female accomplice was in the front seat of a van. It began to rain and they were led to believe it was the father/parents of a friend. They got in the car when he offered a ride; but the child safety locks clicked. They were abducted and raped, forced into trafficking. Sexual trafficking might involve 8 to 10 contacts a day. Currence’ presentation stated that: * 1/3 of women entered prostitution before age 15 (hardly consenting) and 62% before their 18th birthday; *96% of prostitutes who entered prostitution as juveniles were runaways; *72% of these juveniles suffer from sexual and physical abuse; *Develop a dissociative personality regarding normal intimacy and boundaries. Further, 82% of these women are physically assaulted; 83% of these women have been raped-27% by multiple assailants; 35% have sustained broken bones and 47% sustain traumatic brain injuries. Hardly, the ‘Pretty Woman’ movie. Nor is going to a party where the teen is drugged and gang raped.
He said, it’s difficult gaining a victim’s trust even for professionals. Safety and medical care are important to them, and re-assurance. Often, victims have very basic needs –such as a safe place to go, housing, clothing, food, treatment, legal help, connection with benefits and job training or further education. Substance abuse is likely to be an issue, and learning how to take care of themselves and plan for a future.
The audience saw photos of trafficked girls, before and after. These were images of school age kids in one frame, and sorry ‘lights out’ trafficked women, some clearly addicts, others looking utterly beaten into submission, defeated by a hard life. Slavery is illegal, whatever type, Currence asserted.
What would you do? Watch this video what happens when a 16 year old girl meets up with a guy she met online. He turns out to be a predator. http://higherperspectives.com/wwyd/
Gracehaven was founded in 2008 to address the huge need for rehabilitation for victims of domestic minor sex trafficking or, as it is also known, commercial sexual exploitation of children. http://gracehaven.me/
Watch Jennifer’s story. Jennifer’s journey into the darkness of human trafficking started, like many of the women she worked alongside on the streets of downtown Columbus, with a chaotic and abusive childhood, a history of violent and destructive relationships and a downwards spiral into street prostitution and drug addiction. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/nov/16/sp-the-tattooed-trafficking-survivors-reclaiming-their-past
Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation hotline 855-224-6446
[photo credit: Anita Patterson Peppers Dreamstime.com 206107. Article author: Patricia Rodemann]