By Miheema Goodine
Urban Sentinel Staff Writer
Approximately 300,000 children under the age of 18 are lured into sex trafficking each year. Girls are typically brought into the sex trade as young as twelve years old. Boys can be entrapped into the illicit trade at an even younger age. Sex trafficking tends to occur in impoverished neighborhoods, urban centers and along interstate highways. Forty percent of sex trafficking victims are African Americans. In the District of Columbia over 2,500 cases have been reported as of 2017. It is reported that over 1,600 of these cases are children. The same year in which controversy sparked over the amount of missing black girls in the District who received little to no media coverage. This form of modern-day slavery is prevalent in Washington, D.C. and is affecting our youth.
Sex trafficking is far from a victimless crime; it is, in fact, a multi-billion dollar industry that operates throughout the United States. More than 2,000 children go missing each year in the District of Columbia. The Polaris Project study determined that the number of cases reported to a national trafficking hotline surged 25 percent. As of 2019, more than 100 children have been rescued from sex traffickers in the metropolitan area. When black and brown children are missing, little national attention is given to their plight. According to Natalie Wilson of the Black & Missing Foundation, black children who go missing, receive less media attention than white kids.
Youth who are victims of sex trafficking go through a process of manipulation. These kids are often targeted regarding lack of family support, bullying, and even struggling for social acceptance can make them targets. Often youth are groomed or tricked into false beliefs based on words told to them. The process can start off as innocent with toys, candies, compliments, etc and gradually began to escalate. By building a connection, sex traffickers or pimps begin to brainwash and manipulate their victims. Hallmarks of child sex trafficking can include unexplained absences from school, bragging about making or having a lot of money, evidence of physical abuse, sexualized behavior and acting withdrawn. Victims’ home life can revolve around violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse and more and will view the predators as a saving grace. Boys can account for 13% of human trafficking.
Due to a lack of resources for male survivors, there are limited resources for male survivors. Any child who has been abused or abandoned no matter their gender can become a victim of child trafficking. Many common misconceptions and beliefs hinder us from being aware of our surroundings and noticing when these situations are out of the ordinary.
Sexually exploited youths do not have freedom and are not able to escape. Victims of sexual exploitation often suffer from physical, emotional, and mental abuse. One of the least acknowledged facts regarding child trafficking is an alarming number of black victims. Black youth between the ages of 12-19 have or will experience higher violent interactions than their white counterparts. This makes them easy targets for predators.
Statistics show that African-American men kidnap and traffic the majority of America’s sex trafficking victims. However, these traffickers are marketing and selling the services of their victims to a largely white, affluent base. Most people who pay for sexual favors generally have disposable income. The rise of social media has allowed it to become more accessible to order sex. While this can reduce violence among adult sex workers who work for themselves, the Internet has not been positive for young victims. Websites such as Backpage, Kik, Snapchat, and Instagram distribute services of young minors globally. Backpage CEO was even arrested in 2016 for conspiracy to commit pimping and other charges. The apps have been involved in over 1,000 child abuse cases. Youtuber Matt Watson’s video explained how predators time stamp videos and comment when minors appear in a sexually explicit manner. These operations can be hidden under ordinary business establishments. To help put a stop to human trafficking the District of Columbia passed the Prohibition of Human Trafficking Act of 2010.
What Can Be Done?
Tina Frundt, Executive Director of Courtney House created the Washington, D.C. organization to help children who have gotten out of the illegal industry and to educate others to recognize indicators of possible sex trafficking. The organization encourages citizens who suspect children are being victimized to report their suspicions to law enforcement and in doing so possibly save lives.
Sex trafficking has been reported in hotels, brothels and massage parlors but victims can be recruited anywhere. Workers and bystanders are being trained to recognize victims of child trafficking and online predators.
Gentrification and the rise of tourism in DC has made the city a sex tourist destination. Becoming more educated on the topic can help save a life. Report any pages, threads or profiles that mention, discuss and engage in fetishizing lascivious acts with minors. Social media has helped these acts to spread through online feeds featuring child pornography and snuff films. Educate minors to become more aware of online predators, child exploitation and sex trafficking. The main goal of sex traffickers is to find the means to exploit the victim or have the victim leave home to engage in sex. As a reminder child sex trafficking is a genderless crime and can target anyone.
How To Report :
To help defend human dignity and end child exploitation the following options to report are listed below:
Report child abuse/neglect hotline: 202-671-(SAFE) or 7233. Representatives will ask for the following: General information regarding minor such as their name, gender, address, etc. The extent of abuse witnessed and any additional information.
Some people in specific professions, teachers, chiropractors, dentists and more can take FREE training classes. To access these free training courses click here. To report sexual implicit videos, images, text messages, etc involving minors please visit: http://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline
Baylor University offers recommendations to discuss the conversation and educate youth here. By noticing these signs and spreading awareness, you can help at-risk youth and save a life.
To contact safe havens for victims: The Courtney House: call 202 525 1426. The Black and Missing Foundation can be reached at 877 972 2634.