Part of the Sex-Trafficking: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Child Series
Michelle had always felt alone. She had been moved from foster home to foster home for years and never felt like she truly belonged. Her new home was no different. No one at the church her foster parents made her go to seemed to care about her, and she certainly couldn’t talk to the people there about the way she was feeling. All she wanted was to be able to escape the system and take control of her own life. She had heard about other kids who escaped the foster care system; they just hopped on a bus and left town. With nothing but their own wits and common sense to survive, they were able to travel and follow their dreams wherever they may lead.
Michelle decided to run away one afternoon after finally saving up enough money for a bus ticket to the state capitol. She sent her foster parents a text to say she was studying with a friend after school, so she knew they wouldn’t miss her until late that night — and by then she would be long gone. When she got to the bus station, an older girl started talking to her while they waited in the terminal. She told Michelle about how she made money modeling clothes, and it sounded so easy! The city she worked in was even further away than the capitol, which only increased the appeal in Michelle’s eyes. Her new friend bought Michelle’s ticket and sat next to her on the bus, chatting up a storm about new clothes, jewelry, shopping and all the independence that Michelle was craving. Once they arrived at their destination, she introduced her friend, Jimmy, who looked Michelle up and down appraisingly. Michelle found herself anxiously hoping she won his approval. Jimmy nodded once and Michelle stepped into his car and the start of her new life.
Ryan, like most American 12-year-old boys, was a fan of playing video games online. From Minecraft to World of Warcraft, Ryan’s cadre of online “friends” numbered more than a hundred. A hundred other young boys, and a few girls, who played the various games with him, connected by little more than their headphone and mic sets as they built new worlds and smashed others to digital smithereens.
Ryan’s parents were aware of the Internet’s potential dangers and had placed their home’s only computer in the living room so they could ‘monitor’ Ryan’s activity. They never heard anything suspicious. Besides, their son was a good kid with good grades who was home every evening to play with his online pals. Until one night when he didn’t come home.
It wasn’t until he returned home years later that Ryan’s parents learned that he had been abducted by one of his online gaming “friends” who had arranged a meeting at a local park, injected him with a drug and quickly pulled him into a waiting car. Ryan then spent the next three years forcefully addicted to drugs and sold across dozens of U.S. markets as a sex slave.
Both Michelle and Ryan are composites of real sex trafficking victims who were rescued and now share their stories. There are dozens of various ways that men and women abduct young boys and girls into the sex-trafficking industry in the United States every day. Many of these methods are very high-tech, rely on advanced psychological manipulation. Some sex trafficking occurs right under parents’ noses as they are unaware of what their children are doing when they are inside or outside the home.
The numbers of sex-trafficked victims in the U.S. is increasing every year, despite growing efforts by groups to fight this crime. Many Americans remain unaware of the severity of the problem and the fact that, despite Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the slave trade is alive and thriving in this country.
In this series of articles, we will explore the root of the problem of sex trafficking in the United States — especially child sex-trafficking:
- What drives the demand for children to be trafficked into this industry?
- What methods do traffickers use to abduct children and exploit their innocence?
- What can family members do to guard their children from abduction?
As this series of articles documents, sex trafficking is not a third-world problem affecting other countries. This is a serious and growing problem right in our backyards and happening on Main Street, U.S.A.