Yes, it happens — even here.
As educators in the fields of healthy relationships and sexual risk avoidance, our Amplify team has long known that sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors happens even in our own backyard. So while I was saddened to have that knowledge confirmed, and glad to know of the successful sting operation that has caught several alleged perpetrators, I was not surprised.
Amplify Educators were trained backed in 2013 to recognize potential victims of sex trafficking, particularly among the students we serve. Why? Because trafficking victims don’t have to leave the state or come from other countries. Some victims even continue to live at home and attend school, all while being forced or coerced to perform sex acts by a family member, pimp, or older boyfriend or girlfriend.
What does sex trafficking mean locally?
If you don’t already know the definitions, human trafficking refers to the exploitation of an individual for the profit of a third party (such as a pimp). Often we think of trafficking as involving kidnapping or transferring individuals, but it doesn’t have to. Since almost all individuals involved in selling sex eventually become involved with a pimp or madam who uses some form of force or coercion to maintain control (and harvest a profit), almost all instances of prostitution are in fact instances of sex trafficking.
Sexual exploitation and seeking sex with a minor are obviously also crimes, but they are not the same as trafficking and don’t necessarily involve a third party. Furthermore, it is possible that the trafficker never sexually abuses the victim, but merely profits from the victim’s abuse by others. In the above case, the sting operation involved law enforcement posing as the pimps (third party), so while the sting mimicked sex trafficking, it did not in fact catch traffickers. Rather, it caught the customers seeking sex with minors.
If you would like to learn more about trafficking in your state, I highly recommend the resources of the Polaris Project.
Next week, I’ll answer more questions you might have about sex trafficking locally.