Sex Trafficking: Today’s Slavery

Welcome to Wichita, Sex Trafficking Capitol of the US

Though I now live in Southeast Kansas where I go to school, I grew up in Overland  Park—a suburb of Kansas City—where, on the surface, the biggest problem faced by the populace is which brand of sparkling water to buy. My family was perfectly middle class, but I went to the “rich kid” high school and lived next to the rich neighborhood. Because of its proximity to the golf course, it was called Nottingham by the Green—we called in Snottingham.

Many of my friends lived there. It is a “good” area. Two or three years ago, I found out that this clean, busy, affluent area is part of the sex trafficking capital of the United States. More specifically, Wichita, which is about a three-hour drive from Overland Park, is one of the top cities for sex trafficking in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considers Wichita the 5th originating city—the place from which children are recruited before being transported elsewhere for exploitation. Wichita is probably such a popular hunting ground because it is in the middle of the country and crisscrossed by several interstate highways.

Sex Trafficking Targets Children

But no amount of justification can make the revelation any less shocking.

According to police reports, the number of sex trafficking victims almost tripled in just one year – between 2011 and 2012. The Department of Justice estimates that anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk for entering the commercial sex trade in the United States. These statistics make the commercial exploitation of US children and youth tied with illegal arms trade as the second largest and fastest criminal enterprise, after the illicit drug.  In Wichita alone, between 300 and 400 youth are at risk of sex trafficking each year.

sex trafficking
Many are in bondage for years.

To address the problem, the Wichita Children’s Home began a programme specifically to reach these children. Of the 250 residents at the home between 2007 and 2008, 100 had been forced into sexual exploitation. Keep in mind, these statistics show only those who escaped or were rescued from these situations and were able to report about them. How many more have died or been lost?

READ  Raising Children In Pakistan Today

Part of what makes sex trafficking so dangerously successful is how lucrative it is. A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 a year per child, and may exploit as many as 6 victims at a time. But what is worse is that many of those enslaved by sex trafficking do not see themselves as victims. They are brainwashed by their pimps to think that they are working as an act of love for this adult figure who they see as a caretaker and provider. They are made to feel indebted to and appreciative of their pimps. They are taught to hate and blame themselves and to fear law enforcement. But their failure to see themselves as victims does not change their status as such.

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The heartbreaking truth is that most children who are absorbed into child sex trafficking have been previously sexually abused their whole lives. Most children being exploited by sex trafficking, a staggering 70-90%, were abused prior to being forced into the sex trade. They are:

  • runaways, drug addicts
  • some are victims of highly dysfunctional and neglectful families
  • 30% reported sexual abuse by a family member.
  • 14% reported sexual abused by both a family member and another individual outside the family.

An Absence Of TrueWorthiness

sex trafficking and children
I am not worthy of anything else

These children begin to see themselves as worthy or capable only of performing sexually for adults, so they are unable to recognize that what they are being forced to do is incredibly wrong. What do we do?

An increasing number of police precincts have units designated to stop child sex trafficking. Officers are trained to identify potential victims and help remove them from these dangerous and damaging situations. But civilians who have been educated and enlightened about the realities of the US sex trade are learning to intervene as well.

There are justice-determined vigilantes who train themselves to recognize the signs and know where to find help. Potential red flags for sex trafficking include:

  1. Individuals living with their employers, or living with multiple other sex workers in cramped and poor conditions.
  2. They may appear always to be scripted and rehearsed and they are unable to speak to others alone.
  3. There may be signs of physical abuse but it is also likely that there are no visible indicators and the victim is merely submissive or fearful.
READ  Thursday's Child Has Far To Go...

Can We Help?

how to help
Call the police

If you find yourself able to privately speak to such a person without their pimp watching, you might ask them whether they could leave the job if they wanted to or come and go as they please. Remember that many victims of the sex trade do not realize that they are victims and will not ask for or accept help if directly presented with it.  If you do suspect that someone is involved in an unsafe situation, call the police. Do not attempt to rescue this person on your own.

Whenever I go home for a long weekend, it is still hard for me to see my hometown as a hotbed for child sex trafficking. With new apartment complexes and Whole Foods locations opening on practically every corner, I wonder where they can even be keeping their victims. I take my dog around the block and stop to let her lick young faces and grubby hands and I ache for the children who have lost their childhoods to this thing, who think that they are worth no more than the sex they are used for. I study faces at the grocery store, the playground, the mall, see who can not meet my gaze. I smile like a friend.

So many need a friend.

Claudette P. Esterine blog
Katelyn Roth

Katelyn Roth double-majored in Creative Writing and Psychology at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. She remains at the university doing her Masters in Poetry and is also teaching freshman composition classes. She resides in Pittsburgwith her boyfriend and their husky mix, Inara. Read her most recent article, “9 Things Every Woman Should Do This Fall,” here.

This is the first in a five-part series looking at prostitution and those in the sex trade through lenses of compassion. The rationale for doing this series is detailed here and Neelma Tashfeen, our Contributor from Pakistan, will post next week Wednesday the third installment in this series. Do Subscribe to receive a daily email update of our posts as well as my monthly newsletter and affirmation.

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42 thoughts on “Sex Trafficking: Today’s Slavery

  1. […] is important for everyone to understand. Sex trafficking is a huge problem and it is growing. And no, the victims of it are rarely loose women or […]

  2. […] post on a ‘business’ that so few of us want to talk about that caught your attention. “Sex Trafficking: Today’s Slavery,” was one of the most visited posts of 2015 and so it makes our Best of the Year list. Katelyn opened […]

  3. […] email and  Subscribe to follow-up with this series on prostitution and be sure to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 – conversations about the sex trade and the women selling it and a look at the […]

  4. […] Pakistan. Subscribe to follow up with this series on prostitution and be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 – conversations about the sex trade and the women selling it and a look at the children […]

  5. […] want to miss the third part in our series on prostitution. Catch Katelyn Roth’s article on sex trafficking in the United States here and check back tomorrow for Neelma Tashfeen‘s article on prostitution in […]

  6. This is such a travesty for so many children and I know for years people just ignored that this was happening everywhere. Kudos to Wichita Children’s Home for all they do for these children. Thanks for spreading the word,

    1. Ms Claudette

      It indeed is and thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  7. This is so, so sad. As a country, this is a major problem we need to tackle to help these kids and atop the abuse.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, yes and yes. We do need to do more. Thanks for sharing the sentiment. 🙂

  8. Ms. Katrina

    And don’t forget that they use other children as recruiters now so keep an eye out for weird behavior from any child talking to your kids.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Oh dear, yes, you are so right about that. Thanks for the warning.

  9. […] my Facebook page and the comments after the two posts related to our look at sex work, there was a general feeling that a way ought to be found to get governments to help more in […]

  10. It breaks my heart whenever i hear news of children being abused and forced to work as sex slaves. I hope the government finds a solution to fight this.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We need to insist that they do!

  11. May

    Very open and honest view of sex trafficking. It’s scary to see how large and profitable this business is and it’s not always obvious that this is going on. Crazy huh?

    1. Ms Claudette

      Very crazy, right under our noses sometimes.

  12. This kills me. Children are so innocent, and should be treated as such! Not used and abused 🙁

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are absolutely correct, absolutely! 🙂

  13. This problem is absolutely devastating and it kills me that we’re facing it in alarming numbers. I had no idea about locations in the US where it was particularly heavy though. Horrid.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, it is everywhere in the world and we all have to work together to find solutions. 🙂

  14. This is the reason that I do not post provocative photos of my kids and mention their real names in the internet or in my blog. Prostitution is so scary especially when involved kids 🙁

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, many have chosen that way as a preventative measure. If it is keeping them away from the predators, I say good for you, keep on doing that! Much love. 🙂

  15. Elizabeth O.

    This is very alarming. Children should never experience something as cruel as this. I hope we find a solution for this very soon.

    1. Ms Claudette

      I hope so as well! 🙁

  16. victoria

    It really sad story and it is hard to read. but it was awareness thank you for sharing this and great written.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Thank you Vistoria! 🙂

  17. This is very sad… Sex trafficking is a real problem. Its so sad that they targeted kids!

    1. Ms Claudette

      Very much so. 🙁

  18. It’s terrible what is being done to so many children. More people, me included, need to be mindfully aware and do what they can to help remove these children from this.

    1. Ms Claudette

      We all here know we can do more, by helping one, writing and spreading th word through out posts. Each of us can help in our own and different ways. I am so glad that you are thinking how you might help! 🙂

  19. danavento

    This is hard to read, upsetting and at the same time an eye-opener, I truly hope it goes viral for you.

    1. Ms Claudette

      The intention was not to disturb, although it really is. Thank you for your kind wishes. 🙂

  20. This is so scary and sad . Even though it disturbs me, I’m glad this post was made . Awareness is the only way to put a stop to it.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Indeed it is. Thank you for reading even though the thought frightens you. Namaste. 🙂

  21. Robin Masshole Mommy

    It is scary what goes on out there. What is wrong with people who do this to innocent kids?

    1. Ms Claudette

      Perverts, unscrupulous people? The thing is – and the part that really, really bothers me are the “Johns.” For crying out loud, having sex with a child, any child, but more so one you know is virtually a slave? Come on!!!

  22. I had NO idea when I posted on your Facebook that you lived so close to me! I said on your Facebook how bad it is in small towns like where I live. Well I am in TOPEKA KANSAS! Just insane isn’t it!

    1. Ms Claudette

      LOL! No, that’s not me – Claudette – but Katelyn who wrote the article and she is the one who lives close to you! Maybe you two can go for coffee and see what’s happening lately with those kids?

  23. dltolley

    Absolutely sickening. There is a man, a Mr. Ballard who has devoted his life to freeing children caught in this web of abuse and horror. thank you for this. Everyone needs to know the extent of this terrible crime.

    1. Ms Claudette

      Yes, there are many good people out there doing their best to free children from the clutches of these vultures!

  24. This is truly heartbreaking but needs to be talked about in order to bring awareness and make it stop. Thanks for the very well written post!

    1. Ms Claudette

      You are welcome – the thanks go to my Contributor, Katelyn Roth. We are happy to serve in this way. Namaste. 🙂

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