A Most Despicable Crime Against our Children
Of the 4,136 sex trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2015, over half of them were children and youth.
An estimated 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation, the remaining involve labor exploitation.
The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14 years old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
Sources: traffickingresourcecenter.org; dosomething.org
Services to Youthful Victims of Human Trafficking
Childhood trauma varies from physical and sexual abuse, to community and domestic, life-threatening illness, sudden loss of a parent, siblings and other loved ones. Though children are resilient, they can be profoundly affected by these experiences, especially when they are chronic. Studies have shown that untreated childhood trauma leads to a higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and a greater likelihood of substance abuse. Physical symptoms include abnormal physical responses to stress and even the risk of chronic physical conditions such as heart and lung disease. Despite the prevalence and far-reaching implications for child traumatic stress, it remains one of most under recognized and addressed health problems (National Child Traumatic Stress Network).
In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 1 in 5 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 74% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.
In the last decade or more, we as a country and within the international community have come to recognize the pervasiveness of sexual exploitation and trafficking. While a full understanding of the magnitude of the issue is difficult to ascertain given the high volume of cases that go undetected and unreported, the data that is available is shocking. Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking is at least a $150 billion criminal enterprise (third only to the drug trade and arms dealing) with an estimated 20.9 million victims, 26% of them children.
Once trafficked, youth have been physically and emotionally broken down, and even when law enforcement and social service systems have made contact and work to intervene, the trauma these kids have experienced is so profound and runs so deep, taking steps to remove them from "the life" is a long and difficult road. Often times, victimized youth don't identify themselves as victims when an intervention and treatment respond has begun, as their self-worth has been so severely diminished, the fact that they are a victim and deserve a better life is difficult for them to process and accept.
Fortunately, we are presented with the opportunity more and more to help these children. As state and national laws and policy reforms take place in an effort to protect these children, along with multi-agency efforts, task forces, and human trafficking awareness campaigns, the number of cases with which we can intervene and assist the victims continues to grow. YOI is dedicated to providing comprehensive and intensive treatment and recovery programming for youth victims of human trafficking within some of facilities, and we are proud to have a team of compassionate clinical professionals leading the way in innovation and best practice development in our response to the severe trauma these youth face.
Traffickers, preying upon and recruiting children and youth, take advantage of their mental and emotional vulnerabilities; youth who have experience prior trauma, unstable and unloving homes, domestic violence, poverty, have involvement whit the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, or any number of other mental and emotional adverse experience, are particularly susceptible to what traffickers promise: a life of increased wealth, stability, education, opportunity, and a loving relationship. May youth become romantically involved with their trafficker before the manipulation, coercion, and violence begins, forcing them into prostitution. Traffickers know well what they are doing when they target youth who are starved for love, affection, a sense of family, and normalcy.