Human Trafficking Is a Growing Problem, and California Is No Exception

It’s a sad truth that human trafficking used to be a term that conjured up thoughts of poor people in faraway countries working in fields or mines. We live in the United States where we don’t have the same widespread level of poverty or social issues as other countries, don’t we? That’s true to an extent, but human trafficking is alive and well all across our country, and extends to sex trafficking.

If you aren’t overly familiar with what sex trafficking is, it’s a form of sexual assault and abuse where victims are forced to perform sexual acts by their captors in exchange for money. This shouldn’t be confused with prostitution. Prostitution involves consent of both parties, whether the agreement is legal or not. Sex trafficking victims are forced to perform sex acts against their will. As many as one third of victims are underage children.

How do sex traffickers get their victims?

Anyone who spends time on social media has likely seen a post or two where a college aged girl tells a tale of how she was most certainly about to become the victim of sex traffickers. Usually the story involves being followed around Walmart by a man on a cell phone who kept watch over her, or a girl studying at a Starbucks who felt like her movements were being relayed to someone outside waiting to grab her. These are not the ideal targets for sex traffickers. Quite simply, they’d be missed and quickly reported to police.

Victims in the United States who are most vulnerable to sex traffickers are children who are runaways and homeless, and victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

  • In the 10 years between 2007 and 2017, there were an estimated 34,700 sex trafficking cases reported in the United States to the Polaris hotline for human trafficking alone. This doesn’t account for unreported abuse or abuse reported to other entities or agencies.
  • As of 2017, 14% of endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children likely became victims of sex trafficking.

Victims in the United States are rarely kidnapped and are more likely to become lured in by sex traffickers. It may be someone who puts themselves out to a runaway child as a safe person they can come to for help with food or temporary shelter. This makes the child dependent on the individual as a bond of trust begins to form. Eventually the relationship changes and the trusted person turns predatory, placing the child into explicit situations that end with being forced into having their bodies sold for sex.

It’s not dissimilar to how adults become victims. Someone with low self-esteem believes they’ve entered into a relationship where their mate is building them up and making them feel special. The person with low self-esteem begins to feel psychologically tethered to his or her romantic partner only to experience a shift where they’re being torn down and abused. Sometimes it’s gradual, others it can be sudden.

It’s the same in both scenarios. The vulnerable victim has the “you owe me” and “you can’t survive without me” mentality ingrained on their psyche by their abuser, which keeps them in fear. That fear drives the change from being cared for to being sex trafficked.

Where is sex trafficking most common?

The top three states in the country for human trafficking are Florida, New York, and California, with California ranking number one. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Francisco has become a top international hub for sex trafficking. Orange County allegedly holds 80% of sex trafficking business because the wealthy county is where the cash is. Oakland is another high traffic location because of the combination of there being a significant number of victims coupled with the number of predators in the area willing and able to shell out money to buy a victim for the night.

The Los Angeles sexual assault and abuse attorneys at Taylor & Ring fight for survivors. We can advise you of your legal options for holding your attacker or abuser accountable, and you may be entitled to compensation for your pain. To speak with one of our knowledgeable and dedicated attorneys, schedule your free consultation by calling us at 310-776-6390, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form. We proudly serve clients all across California.