A United Nations report released last week by the organization’s Office on Drugs and Crime reveals that the grim underworld of sex trafficking has taken root across the planet. More worrying still is the increasing tendency for children to fall victim to sex traffickers.
Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, describes the problem as clandestine modern slavery.
“It absolutely is slavery, and we need to think about it in those terms to know how dire it is, to know how painful it is for the people who are involved,” he says. “And certainly we need find the bad guys and root them out and lock them up under the jail.”
Although it is difficult to determine the number of Indiana children who fall victim to sex trafficking, say Indiana Youth Institute staff, there were 58 investigations by Indiana authorities into the issue in the last four years.
Children fall victim to sexual extortion and trafficking in a number of ways, from being manipulated and blackmailed by predators online to being abducted from malls, parks and other public places.
More commonly children are coerced into prostitution by people they know and trust says Phil Shay, director of development for Abolition International, a nonprofit support organization supporting victims of child sex trafficking.
“If you were to look back into that person’s past to see how this has become part of their life,” he says, “most often it’s because as a young child, they were manipulated and coerced and convinced into a situation generally with a relationship by someone that they know or think they know via a family member of family friend.”
Stanczykiewicz says that the best measure Hoosiers can take to address the problem is to simply get involved in children’s lives. For those children that fall through the cracks, however, Shay’s Abolition International is there to provide relief and support for those that emerge as survivors.