Organization Finds New Way to Reach Out to Human Trafficking Victims

October 12, 2011
The numbers are staggering. There are at least 350 - 400 new victims of child sex trafficking each day in the United States, yet less than 1% of these victims are rescued. Victims live under the reign of their traffickers and if they attempt to escape to the outside world, they are threatened and abused, sexually, physically and mentally. In addition, many victims do not consider themselves victims. They have been trained to believe that there is no one in the outside world who will love them anymore, and that they are worthless once they leave their trafficker. 

This can be seen in the case of Sara*, a young teen out of Washington D.C. who met a man 20 years her senior while hanging out in public with friends. He quickly became her “boyfriend”, and not long after, transported Sara to Maryland and began selling her for sex out of a hotel room.

Sara’s parents contacted FAIR Fund, an anti human-trafficking organization in Washington D.C. and asked them to help search for Sara. FAIR Fund immediately began their search online, where many trafficking transactions take place. Sara’s cell phone number was found linked to several sex ads online, and they were able to locate Sara on a social networking site. Shortly after, FAIR Fund began reaching out to Sara over the phone and online. After a month of online contact, FAIR Fund and law enforcement were finally able to convince Sara to escape by taking a cab where they met up with her. Sara’s escape was successful and within minutes of reaching safety, Sara was at the police station reporting what had happened. We applaud the work of FAIR Fund and would love to see their success grow and continue. 

Traffickers brainwash victims into thinking this is their new family and they are the people who protect and take care of them. The trafficker has such a mental hold on victims that they see everyone else, even those trying to help them, as untrustworthy. This is sometimes referred to as Stockholm Syndrome. It is extremely difficult to deprogram a young victim from the brainwashing at the hands of a trafficker. Even if a young victim wants out, they are often too afraid because they have seen the kind of violent reaction their traffickers have on other girls who have tried to escape. Often you either have a girl who does not believe she is a victim or she is too afraid to attempt escape. It takes a lot of skill to reach out, connect and build trust with a young girl who has seen over and over that even people who say they want to help really just want to victimize them. 

Victims of human trafficking have a life span of 7 years. With less than 1% of victims being rescued, they are more likely to escape trafficking by death than by escape. One reason why rescue is so rare is because once a girl is trafficked she becomes both a hidden and a moving target for anyone seeking to rescue her. 

The poor rate of rescue seems to indicate more energy and thought needs to be put into prevention strategies. We now know so many red flags which can be taught to teens to sense danger when approached by someone seeking to victimize them. In this particular case, several red flags were present to the victim. He had a major age difference, was a stranger to her and also moved Sara to a different location. Had she understood these red flags, she might have had the opportunity flee from the situation and avoid becoming a victim of human trafficking. 

*Name changed

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