Perhaps you have read about the recent child trafficking busts in Georgia and other US states including Ohio and Indiana. But what you should also know is Covid-19 is creating a situation where it’s almost twice as likely to lose a child to sex trafficking.
First, the internet is a primary recruiting mechanism for child sex trafficking. Youths are spending more time on the internet due to the pandemic. Children who are already vulnerable are at increased risk of being groomed by traffickers on the internet. Additionally, the pandemic has highlighted these vulnerabilities — many families and children are stretched thin on needed resources and are left insecure. Child sex traffickers most commonly are adults who provide a promise to vulnerable children of relationship, love, or other means of support.
Secondly, Human traffickers prey on vulnerable children: runaway and homeless youth; those with low social supports; children who have been sexually or physically abused or are chemically dependent; or children who have a history in the foster care system or juvenile detention – even from “good homes”. It’s not just sex trafficking: Children are at greater risk of all forms of child abuse during the pandemic because of an increase in risk factors such as stress, financial difficulties, food insecurity and isolation. Social distancing has removed many children and adolescents from social supports including schools, summer programs, and community services, decreasing opportunities for mandatory reporters and concerned citizens to notice warning signs of child abuse and take appropriate reporting action.
If you or someone you know could be a victim of sex trafficking or exploitation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888
Just last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, recovered 149 sexually exploited children and young adults and arrested more than 150 pimps and other individuals.
“Our mission is to protect the American people—especially our children—from harm,” said FBI Director James Comey in a statement. “When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror. We simply must continue to work with our partners to end the scourge of sex trafficking in our country.” You can read the FBI report HERE.
“We’ve had fake photographers offer modeling shoots down here in Florida”, says Theo Billiris, CEO of ESS Global Corp. “One happened very recently in Orlando who then kidnapped and raped two young women. A free modeling photo shoot is a big attraction, however all too often it ends up at a remote location such as a secluded area or a home or garage off the beaten path. And it’s not just happening here in Florida, as shown by the FBI operation it’s happening all across America.”
Here are some human trafficking ploys that are common for children and young adults.
- Blind Dates – Katie picks out the girls her “boss” would like and targets the ones who will bring in the most cash for payment. She befriends unsuspecting girls until they trust her enough to go on a blind date that Katie then sets up for them. Unfortunately for Taylor, she is one of the girls that Katie becomes friends with. Katie then suggests to Taylor that she goes on a blind date with a “really good friend who is going to school to be a veterinarian.” They meet at night at a restaurant. He seems nice, walks her to her car and a van pulls up. Taylor never sees her friends and family again.
- The “Too Good To Be True” Offer – Much like the “free photo shoot” (with the fake portfolio to boot), these are the “chance of a lifetime” offers that involve amazing job offers, travel to places you’ve only read about and opportunities you only dreamed about. Except you never come home.
- Parties and “social events” – these are human trafficking ploys inevitably at locations you’ve never been to (with people you have recently met). The drinks are spiked, the world spins and you blackout. When you wake, it’s quite possible you are not even in the same state.
- Social Media including Craigslist, Backpage, Tinder and other websites, smartphone apps, texting and chatting. Social media is cool. It’s also dangerous when it leads to off-line meetings in unfamiliar (and even familiar) surroundings. Don’t think for a minute that pimps, traffickers and other nefarious individuals and organizations don’t use social media. Think for a minute. ISIS is all over social channels. Be careful. Be very careful.
- Boyfriend – Remember, you are dealing with professionals who target your vulnerabilities. Much like the blind date ploy, your new boyfriend knows what to do and what to say. No one ever told you how beautiful you are and John really seemed to mean it. John also knows that we all have emotional needs. He invites you to a concert out of town, and neither John nor you return.
The bottom line is it’s terrifying how people take advantage of children and young adults. It’s a myth that human trafficking only happens in poor, underdeveloped countries. It occurs with frightening regularity throughout the US. Be safe, not sorry. Let everyone know where you are going. Go places with a true friend or meet people with chaperone.
Make every effort to be safe.
“As the only training facility in Florida to be licensed by the US Department of Education, ESS Global Corporation provides education, training and consulting for commercial endeavors, government entities and the general public solely designed to enhance the safety and security of our communities. Our partnerships promote an unrelenting devotion to high standards of duty and courage. ESS Global Corporation accomplishes this mission through an unwavering dedication to deliver comprehensive security services to the communities we value and serve.”