Silent Victims: Would You be Able to Spot a Victim of Sex Trafficking?

Monday, January 28th, 2019

It can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but with the rise in media attention about sex trafficking in recent years, it’s important for church leaders to make their staff and volunteers aware of the seriousness of this issue.

Sex trafficking is the practice of illegally transporting people from one location to another for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In the United States, any minor under the age of 18 who is forced into commercial sex is considered to be a victim of sex trafficking.

According to 2017 data from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, one in seven endangered runaways reported to them were sex trafficking victims.

As a congregation, it’s important to be aware of the threat of sex trafficking. It’s something that can happen anywhere, whether you are in a large city or small town.

Be on the lookout for any of these troubling signs in the young people that you may encounter:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Looks thin and in need of food
  • Dresses in a suggestive way
  • Is with a person who seems to control everything they do
  • Claims to be an adult, even when they look like an adolescent
  • Appears to move often from place to place

If you suspect that a young person has fallen victim to sex trafficking, follow these steps:

  • Never confront the alleged trafficker on your own.
  • Always contact law enforcement immediately and inform your church or organization’s leadership.
  • For urgent situations, call 911.
  • Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free, 24 hours a day at 1-888-373-7888 to report a tip.

It’s important to remember that victims of sex trafficking are often hidden in plain sight. It’s possible to encounter victims anywhere from a shopping mall to a restaurant to a hotel.

Since traffickers frequently use coercion on their victims—in the form of threats of harm to their family members—it’s also common for victims to be fearful of coming forward and asking for help.

So, know the signs, be vigilant, and help bring these suspected cases of sex trafficking to the attention of law enforcement officials.