January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Each year thousands of children, mostly minor girls, are trafficked in the United States. The sex trafficking of minors is NOT excluded from our region in rural Pennsylvania. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, and in our area, we are seeing family members selling others within the family for commercial sex acts. By actual definition, sex trafficking is the exchange of any sex acts for an item of value. Items of value can include but are not limited to money, drugs, transportation, food, or shelter.  Many times, these young girls and boys are lured into “the life” by false promises of precisely those things.  Minor girls are especially vulnerable to someone who poses as a father figure or an older boyfriend.  At first, they will give lavish gifts and treat them to an unbelievable trip. But once the trafficker feels they have their grip on them, the actual criminal behind the fake caring disguise is revealed and the victims feel there is no way out.  Many of these children are run-a-ways or have been in one foster family after the next.  They are running from the violence and abuse they have been exposed to or experienced only to find themselves in a much worse place.  They blame themselves and feel worthless.  These young boys and girls are manipulated by older individuals who through force, violence, lies, and deceit trick them into situations they feel they have no control over and that they will never be free of their trafficker or the sex buyers who are sexually abusing them and cheating them out of their childhoods.  These kids feel they are locked in to this life and are sold over, and over, and over again.  They are broken and destroyed both emotionally and physically, all for the profits sex trafficking generates. 

Commercial sexual exploitation generates more than 150 Billion dollars in profits a year.  So how do we stop this?  We need to bring awareness and understanding about sex trafficking to our area, to our communities, and to our leaders who have the power to change the laws and right the wrongs that are have damaged our children.  Educate yourself as to the actual definition of sex trafficking, not the Hollywood version, and know how to identify and report sex trafficking.  That little girl or boy on the streets trying to survive did not go to sleep one night and dream of prostituting themselves.  They are victims but feel there is no one they can trust and that this is all they will ever be worth.  Kids don’t have to be “missing’ to be sold into sex slavery.  The sooner you know the warning signs like; a young girl who talks about her older boyfriend, they have a new tattoo or brand-style marking that seems to show ownership to another person, they run away often, have risky behaviors, and act out in some unpredictable ways.  Reporting to the National Human Trafficking Hotline is a step in the right direction to end this horrific crime against our children.  Call them at 888-373-7888 or call Transitions at 1-800-850-7948 for more information on this and other topics.   


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