Myth: Sex trafficking is not happening often or close to me.
Reality: Sex trafficking is rampant all over the world and our country.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘sex trafficking’? Maybe you imagine a poor family in India selling their youngest daughter into the sex industry in order to feed their other children and keep a roof over their heads. Maybe you picture a scene from Taken where naive teenage girls are abducted in a foreign country and forced into exploitation. These images reinforce the idea that sex trafficking is only happening internationally in cases of extreme poverty or abduction.
In reality, sex trafficking is both a global and local problem. Across the world there are 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking, but this does not mean that this problem is far from home. There have been reports of sex trafficking in all 50 states this past year, and the staggering volume of child pornography in the United States has increased the demand for child sex trafficking. From 2013 to 2017, the number of cases in the US involving minors has doubled. Sex trafficking is growing more rapidly than the drug trade because selling women and children is more profitable and lower risk than dealing drugs.
But these statistics don’t just apply to states with big cities that have high crime rates. Locally in Virginia, there has been a 168% increase in the child trafficking cases in the last four years. In 2016, Virginia had 106 sex trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and was ranked 15th in highest cases of trafficking in the US. Fairfax County Detective William Woolf, has identified sex trafficking cases at every high school and many middle schools in Northern Virginia. Even here in our community, there have been cases reported in Roanoke City, Salem, Vinton, and Giles County.
Help us spread the news that sex trafficking is not just a problem in foreign countries–it’s happening here and now! Check out these red flags so that you can start recognizing victims and traffickers in your community.