(WTNH) – We are continuing to look inside the world of child sex trafficking. We are examining its impact on communities of color and why they are sometimes targeted more than others.
The news is troubling because there appears to be a link between the present and the past.
“It should shock everyone. It should make people angry,” said Tamarra Clark.
Tamarra Clark is the director of the Connecticut Survivor Care at Love146. Love 146 is an international human rights group that helps kids who are at-risk, suspected, or confirmed as victims.
“It’s very prevalent. It’s right in front of us and makes it challenging to identify,” Clark said. “A trafficker may target a youth who has already been exposed to sexual abuse or violence, youth who is at risk, youth who’s engaging in risky behavior, youth who is dealing with low self-esteem.”
In America, a child is sexually assaulted every nine minutes according to The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Some are as young as 10 or 11 years old.
While the crime happens across the board, children of color, both girls and boys, appear to be at higher risk, according to a 2018 finding by the Department of Children and Families.
But why children of color? A UCLA Law review paper called The Racialized Roots of Human Trafficking points to our nation’s history. The author, Cheryl Nelson Butler, draws a direct line between slavery and sex trafficking.
“The quote basically says the sexual exploitation of people of color that developed during slavery and colonization impacts the cultural expectations and belief about the availability to use children of color for commercial sex today,” Butler said.
So, where is child sex trafficking happening? You might suspect a dark alley, the local swimming pool, or even a shopping mall parking lot. The most alarming news is a child can be trafficked right in the comfort of their own home.
“I think the biggest risk is through social media,” said Michael Syrax, FBI Special Agent, Violent Crimes Against Children Division.
“Some of these children are recruited through Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, much in the same way that a person would interact with them in real life,” Syrax said.
That interaction is what you call the grooming period, which is a time to get to know you. Traffickers may exchange compliments, make a promise, and even offer intended victims money.
“And from there, the trafficker would identify risk or weakness that they can capitalize on, that they can use their either force, intimidate, or coerces, or in some cases, reward the child for engaging in this behavior,” Syrax said. “In the traffickers’ eyes, the child is a commodity that can be resold multiple times, as opposed to narcotics. Once you sell it, it’s gone.”
However, there are ways to guard against predators. Software programs that allow parents to track a child’s online activities is highly recommended. The BI says the first step should be a dialogue with your child about the threat of sex trafficking.
“The hazard that I see with social media is even if you kept your child at home, social media comes to you,” Syrax said.