It has two distinct but overlapping elements, sex trafficking and forced labor or slavery.
At a recent meeting discussing homelessness, I heard a presentation on human trafficking. The handout below surprised and shocked me. I was woefully unaware that this problem existed to this extent here in Northern VA.
Sex Trafficking is not an isolated condition. It is becoming a major source of revenue for gang operations like MS-13. In some cases, it is rivaling illegal drug sales as their major source of income. When they sell a drug, it’s done. They have to get more drugs to sell more. This typically means the risky activity of smuggling in the drugs. With sex trafficking, they can sell the same ‘product’ over and over again, and they do not have to smuggle them in. They find them in the community. The problem is not just happening in disadvantaged communities. Fairfax County in northern Virginia recently conducted an awareness campaign.
“Jodi O’Hern with Just Ask Prevention Project to end teen sex trafficking spoke to the crowd before the event got underway Saturday morning. Many of you don’t know that we have had trafficking victims from every single high school in this county, many victims from many middle schools and some elementary schools, some children as young as 9-years old,” she said. “It’s tragic isn’t it?”
Look closely at the signs of victims listed on the handout and think about people you may have seen….
Print copies of the handout and share them with friends and neighbors. Raise awareness of this hidden threat to our citizens. Look for people showing the symptoms described and take appropriate steps.
“In 2017, the National Hotline and BeFree Textline identified:
· 7,255 victims of sex trafficking
· 1,979 victims of labor trafficking
· 542 victims of both sex and labor trafficking
· 838 victims where the form of trafficking was unspecified
Additionally, more survivors contacted the National Hotline directly than ever before with 2,144 survivors reaching out for help. It is vital to continue to ensure that survivors are aware that help is available if they choose to access it.”