Unfortunately, this news report of a 15 year old girl drugged, raped, and sold for sex is nothing new. I want to highlight it, though, for a couple of reasons.
First, while this girl was clearly trafficked there is no allegation that she was physically tied up or restrained. She was held by chains that are invisible to a passerby- illegal drugs. This is one of the most common ways traffickers control their victims. The trafficker gets a mark high on drugs, and then is the mark’s only source for more. Attempting to run away means leaving drugs cold turkey and risking an arrest on drug and/ or prostitution charges yourself.
Second, note that this girl was a runaway. It’s another example of how traffickers set their sites on girls who lack a family or community support network. Runaways, kids in foster care, and foreigners with no local connections are the most likely to fall victim to trafficking.
What can we do? On a personal level, remember that sex trafficking happens everywhere. In addition to the categories above, here is a link to a list of further sex trafficking warning signs on the website ‘shared hope.’ If you know anyone, especially a teen, who meets these signs, speak up!
We also have to advocate for change in our legal system to make it easier for trafficking victims to escape. Women being trafficked for sex certainly may be committing crimes- drug crimes, immigration, and prostitution itself. But being forced to remain a pimp’s sex slave is unconscionable punishment! These women need to know that if they contact law enforcement they won’t have the legal books thrown at them, and that they’ll be protected from their pimps as well.