I have in my hands an “album” with pictures of missing children (ages 14-17) that is being given to convenience stores and other businesses in the neighborhoods of San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Clara. These business managers will also be offered posters of other children recently reported as missing. The appalling fact is 450,000 American children run away from home every year, and one out of three of them will be approached for sex trafficking within 48 hours of running away. We know from history that a slave in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000. Today, a slave often costs nothing, and is also considered expendable and easily replaced. Human trafficking is the second fastest growing crime in the world and America has become a destination country for sex trafficking.
Wherever the Super Bowl is being held, there has been shown to be a 300% increase in online sex trafficking. A few years ago, “magazines” were given to visitors. On the glossy cover was an under-age scantily dressed girl holding a rolled dollar bills to snort two lines of cocaine on a football. Inside the magazine was a “clip-and-go” article on how to tell if “your prostitute” is an undercover cop. More money is made by the pornography industry than by the NFL, NBA and MLB put together.
Most victims of human trafficking are “invisible” in plain sight. Most sex trafficked victims are American-born citizens. Most labor trafficking victims are foreign born nationals.
Why don’t these victims ask for help? They are held in captivity, confined and isolated. They are controlled by threats and acts of violence. They are broken, conditioned, afraid, ashamed, full of self-blame, hopeless and traumatically bonded to their trafficker. The predator’s goal is to instill fear of death and gratitude for life — and they succeed at an appalling rate.
Who are the men who buy our children for sex? In one study the median age of a sex buyer is 37, 41% were married,42% have a bachelor’s degree and are 81% employed full time. A large majority watch porn. And, oh, how tempting for those out-of-towners who think no one will ever know what they do here, “playing” in our backyard.
You can help reclaim our lost children.
How to identify a possible victim: A sex trafficking victim will not make eye contact except with a prospective “john” or their trafficker. They may have injuries, bruises, cuts, marks. They may have scars. Traffickers will often tattoo a girl to identify her/him as their property.
What to do if you see a possible victim: Do NOT approach the victim. This can put you in harm’s way, and can get the victim injured or killed. These girls and boys are watched all the time. In fact, one of the only places a victim will be alone is in a bathroom stall. It is dangerous to approach them, dangerous to you, but even more so to them. Therefore: Watch and take note of as much information as you can; location, description of girl, pimp, john. The pimp will usually be close by and may be communicating with prospective johns on a cellphone. If there
is a car involved, get the license number. Then call 911 if the crime is in progress. Or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-3737-888 or text BeFree (233733). I encourage you to have that number on auto/speed dial.
Sex Trafficking may increase during the Super Bowl, but it goes wherever there is money to be spent; be it cities or small towns. An article in our local paper in Sonoma County said that thousands who are attending the Super Bowl will be heading north to enjoy the casinos and wine country. Sex trafficking will come with that flood.
Educate yourself. Look around you. Imagine if that victim were your child. If you are going to be sitting in Levi Stadium in Santa Clarita for the Super Bowl, remember the children. Look around. You may help rescue a child who is being sold. Help abolish slavery in our country!
I highly recommend Nita Belles’ book In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It and Opal Singleton’s Seduced: The Grooming of America’s Teenagers.