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January is Human Trafficking Month

By Dawn Quaderer, RN

LCO Health Center

What most people think they know about child sex trafficking generally involves stories – young girls and boys being kidnapped by strangers, forced into windowless vans, and then driven to another city or state where they are kept drugged and chained in a brothel.

While situations like these do indeed exist, they are more of an exception than the rule.

The danger of these misconceptions is that while we are on high alert for windowless vans and teaching our children about stranger danger, we may well be missing out on what is really going on next door. The information below summarizes some of the best available research about how trafficking actually happens, so you can help to keep your families and communities safe.

Traffickers tend to prey on youth who are living in poverty, on the streets, experience physical abuse, sexual abuse, or addiction. They pose as a friend, offering: meals, gifts, or just a sympathetic ear. This recruitment can happen in public places such as malls or sporting events, as well as online through social media sites, or through false promises about job opportunities that might appeal to young people, such as modeling or acting. Although runaway and homeless youth are particularly vulnerable, there are also several examples of victims who were groomed and recruited while living at home and even attending school. It is not uncommon for parents and family members to sell children for sex in exchange for money, drugs, or something of value.

Child Sex Trafficking is a severe form of child sexual abuse that is illegal in all 50 states. While proof of force, fraud, or coercion is required for adult sex trafficking victims, these elements are NOT required when the victim is a minor.

Examples of Child Sex Trafficking

• A 14-year old meets a “friend” online and engages in a relationship with him. The “friend” wants her to have sex with his friends in order for him to get money to pay his rent.

• A mother allows her drug dealer to engage in sex acts with her 6-year-old son or daughter in exchange for drugs.

• A 15-year-old girl exchanges sex for free rides from a ride share driver.

• A 16-year-old transgender youth has sex with a physician in exchange for hormones and money for medical procedures needed to achieve a physical body consistent with their gender identity.

• Boys, as young as 12, on a reservation are recruited by a tribal member to sell drugs and engage in sex acts with casino visitors for which the boys are provided cash, phones, and clothes.

• An 11-year-old boy is sent a cell phone from someone he meets on his gaming system in exchange for the boy masturbating live on camera.

• A 13-year-old girl runs away from her group home with a 14-year-old peer. The friend takes pictures of her and places an ad for sexual services on an adult services website to get money to cover the cost of their hotel room and food.

Family Trafficking

Family trafficking involves the intentional or unwilling exploitation of children/youth by individuals who are responsible for their care, safety and trust. Some ways that family members initiate child sex trafficking include:

• Caregivers/Parents engaging with traffickers who fraudulently promise to obtain jobs or other opportunities for their children, and instead force the children into commercial sex, strip club involvement, production of child pornography, etc.

• Neglect- Caregivers who are intoxicated or high on drugs and provide inadequate supervision leaving children/youth home alone and vulnerable to those who sexually exploit them.

• Family members not otherwise engaged in trafficking allowing traffickers to exploit their children/youth in exchange for drugs, money, or something else of value.

• Family members exploiting/trafficking their own children and potentially others for drugs.

Studies demonstrate significant psychological and physical harm, and high levels of clinical need in these sometimes younger, child victims, including high rates of PTSD (80%), psychiatric hospitalization (35%) and suicide attempts (48%).

Young children are often under identified. They may be especially vulnerable to familial trafficking and may not be aware that something has been exchanged. In many cases the abuse is normalized, with multiple generations and family members directly involved or complicit.

One in three teens will be recruited by a pimp within 48 to 72 hours of running away from home. The average of age entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old.

Trafficking is happening in your community, right now, as you’re reading this.


Human trafficking victims are:


Pimps/traffickers are predators who seek out vulnerable victims, particularly runaways or children experiencing trouble at home. They find victims in places like social-networking websites, shopping malls, schools, group homes, shelters, bus or train stations and on the streets.

Pimps/traffickers will create a seemingly loving and caring relationship with their victim to establish trust and loyalty. They will invest a great deal of time and effort in their victim, buying him or her gifts, providing a place to stay or promising a loving relationship. Victims often view them as a caretaker or boyfriend/girlfriend.

A pimp’s/trafficker’s use of psychological manipulation (causing the child to truly believe the pimp loves and cares for his or her well-being) coupled with physical control (threats, violence or drug addiction) can make a victim feel trapped and powerless.

What are potential indicators of trafficking and exploitation of a child?

The child may:

• Show signs of physical harm; Physical restraints, torture, malnourished

• Become depressed, fearful or withdrawn, submissive

• Have a history of running away or currently be on run;

• Have expensive clothing, jewelry, manicures, pedicures, etc.;

• Begin spending time with an older boyfriend or girlfriend;

• Be found in a hotel/motel;

• Have new tattoos or branding scars;

• Become isolated from family, friends or sources of support;

• Make reference to having a “pimp” or “daddy.”

• Dresses inappropriately for age…high heels, too tight clothing, revealing clothing

• Overly attached to one person or has one person overly attached to them.

• Needs permission or direction to make simple decisions, such as going to the bathroom.

You can help put an end to the buying and selling of our children

If you suspect a child is a victim of human trafficking, call 911 and the DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 800-252-2873. The best way to assist is:

Contact local law enforcement and provide them with all the details you have. Call 911 if you are witnessing an emergency situation.



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