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Sex Trafficking: A Growing And Dangerous Risk For Children

A 29-year-old U.S. Army reservist was convicted of sex trafficking.

According to the evidence presented during the three-day trial by three of the four victims, the perpetrator operated an extensive sex trafficking business in the Charlotte, North Carolina area between 2012 and 2017, except for a brief time when he was deployed overseas.

The former reservist recruited all four complainants, young women, one of whom is a teenager. All of the women were struggling drug addicts. He promised to provide them with a house, car, and other material possessions, as well as the drugs to feed their addictions. Then, he advertised them on Backpage.com for prostitution and collected payment for his own profit.

He controlled the women's supply of drugs, such as hydrocodone pills and heroin. Without drugs, the victims experience debilitating physical and mental pain and withdrawal symptoms. The perpetrator would withhold their drugs until after they completed having sex with his customers. He would also withhold the drugs as punishment if they did not turn over all the money that they earned from prostitution or if they violated his rules.

Evidence presented also showed that the victims were physically abused at certain times. One victim was choked on several occasions and the others were punched and slapped. One victim was struck in the face with a pistol, which resulted to her nose being broken.

After seven hours of deliberation, the federal jury found the defendant guilty of seven out of nine counts contained in the indictment. Each sex trafficking charge carries a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum life sentence. "U.S. Army Reservist, Who Exploited Opioid Addictions of Young Women, Convicted of Sex Trafficking and Related Overseas" www.justice.gov (Oct. 12, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

The National Human Trafficking Hotline operated by the nonprofit, Polaris, has received 34,700 sex trafficking case alerts within the United States since 2007.

In addition, the International Labor Organization estimates that approximately 4.8 million people are trapped in forced sexual exploitation around the world.

Other reports indicate that human trafficking is on the rise and is in all 50 states. It is a $32 billion-a-year industry in the U.S. alone and up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year.

Child sex trafficking refers, according to the Department of Justice, to the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act.”

Here are some tips to help safe adults prevent, or interrupt, child trafficking:

  • Be aware of the signs of possible child trafficking and ask follow up questions.
  • To report a tip, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 (24/7). You can call federal law enforcement directly to report suspicious activity and get help from the Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 (24/7), or submit a tip online at www.ice.gov/tips, or from the U.S. Department of Justice at 1-888-428-7581.
  • Children are often trafficked for use as cheap labor, so avoid purchasing items from manufacturers known to use child labor. Check out the Department of Labor's "List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor."
  • Distribute public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or Department of Homeland Security.
  • Volunteer or donate funds to a local anti-trafficking organization.
  • Encourage local schools to partner with students and include the issue of modern day slavery in their curriculum. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.
  • If a child is in urgent need of assistance, contact law enforcement or child protective services to report abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child:
  • The Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline: 1.800.4.A.CHILD. (1.800.422.4453)
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