Human Trafficking Exploits Children and Youth

Ask the Experts by Angela Aufdemberge

Q: I've been hearing the term human trafficking a lot lately. I don't really understand it and wonder what is has to do with the internet and children. What should we be looking for?

A: Many of us understand human trafficking as the illegal movement of individuals across borders or the exploitation of vulnerable women.

However, human trafficking is much more and more prevalent than you might think. Human trafficking involves forcing or coercing another individual into work (labor) or sexual activity. Any commercial sexual activity involving a youth is illegal in the United States.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise, and there are cases of trafficking of youth in all 50 states. We are appalled by the reports of human trafficking in the media, but few of us know that trafficking of Michigan's children is occurring at an alarming rate.

Children are the primary target for traffickers. Youth are tricked by traffickers and lured into a variety of sexual activities, which are transacted through the internet. Seemingly innocent places frequented by youth are the key locations where traffickers lurk waiting to trick or entice a youth with promises of love, acceptance, travel, fame or even fortune.

The average age range for entry into commercial sexual exploitation is 12 to 14 for girls and 9 to 12 for boys. What many parents don't understand is that some children are being sexually exploited yet they are home in bed every night. Human trafficking is described as the crime that is hidden in plain sight.

Understanding human trafficking, the tricks used by traffickers as well as the signs that a youth is being trafficked should be a top priority for all parents, grandparents, teachers, counselors and first responders.

Angela Aufdemberge is the President & CEO of Vista Maria, a licensed provider of mental health treatment for adolescent female victims of human trafficking. The mission of Vista Maria is to deliver innovative care, support, treatment and education to vulnerable youth so they can heal, believe in their worth and build the skills needed to succeed. Find out more at vistamaria.org.

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Sexual Victimization of Our Youth: On and Off-Line

Presented in partnership with the Grosse Pointe News and The War Memorial as part of its This Americana Series

March 21, 2017
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