It’s not just around the corner

Two million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade, and the majority of them are teenage girls.

Victims of sex trafficking are isolated, intimidated and physically or sexually abused by their traffickers. Victims are at greater risk of contracting an STD or STI. Many victims become pregnant, and they are forced to undergo unsafe abortions.

“A lot of times, you don’t realize you’re being sex trafficked until you’re actually trafficked,” Ms. Judy Olds, certified bereavement counselor at youth connections, said. “Traffickers will groom and will work with the youth for as long as it takes. You may think that you have just met a really great guy, and he’s going to take you to a party. Everything’s cool until you get to the party. The next thing you know you’re waking up. You’re completely undressed. There’s somebody on top of you. At that point, you’ve been trafficked.”

Sex trafficking is a form of labor trafficking. People become slaves to one job, and one job only: sex. At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sex slavery and forced labor.

“Rural areas with a lot of farming are common criminal industries,” Ms. Karen Maher, regional coalition coordinator for Marion County and surrounding areas, said. “It winds up being labor trafficking, and human trafficking consists of labor trafficking.”

Sex trafficking industries are in Indiana.

“Criminal industries can be found in a variety of places,” Ms. Maher said. “There’s a number of industries that are vulnerable to sex trafficking, whether it’s hotels or motels, low paying jobs, sex industries, strip clubs, pornography, massage parlors, and those types of places.”

Most victims live under constant mental and physical threat. Many victims suffer with severe emotional trauma, including PTSD and dissociation.

“Very often, recovery is a long term process,” Ms. Maher said. “It’s not something where they get put into services, then they’re better. After a year, it’s something that they have to address: therapy, counselings and school. Because of the complex trauma that they suffer, recovery has to be something that is long term.”

Traffickers seek out their next victims often through social media.

“Watch your social media because traffickers will groom,” Ms. Olds said. “They’ll take as much time as necessary to groom a young girl, and they may start running into the kids in real life and always with the, ‘Hey, don’t I know you?’ title. Until they win the confidence of the young girl, and then that’s how it starts.”

Social media is the start of searching for traffickers.

“Look out for people especially when it comes to social media,” Ms. Maher said. “Social media is a parading ground for people who exploit and recruit. They go online looking for someone who is posting that they’re bored; they don’t like their parents, or they wish they had somewhere else to go. Traffickers are looking for those vulnerabilities to prey on.”

Sex trafficking can be prevented.

“There are a variety of things that could help address prevention,” Ms. Maher said. “The first one is education. Trying to figure out how to reduce the demand for commercial sex, whether that’s education among men as to what it means to purchase someone, and that they are the victims of a crime and the trauma that they suffer. Cutting down on pornography because very often it can lead to someone purchasing sex. The key is education.”

If you are in a situation call: 888- 373- 7888 for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. If in an emergency, call 911.

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