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Heidi Shope

Instructor: Malcolm Campbell

UWRT 1104

November 5th, 2018

Taken: Preventing Sex Trafficking in the US

Let’s get right to it, I’m scared to go to Walmart by myself at night. I am scared to go

most places at night by myself. The fear put into our heads about sex trafficking is real. Sex

trafficking, according to Shared Hope International, occurs when someone uses force, fraud, or

coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial

sex act. There is a very strong demand for sex with minors and that is the reason the industry

thrives so much today. It is a form of modern-day slavery that is stripping people of their

freedom as we speak. It has becoming a booming industry in the US, especially in Atlanta, GA,

where it’s worth $290 million. I’m here to research how the United states is trying to prevent

such a large, growing industry and how people can become aware that it is happening and stop


There are hundreds of thousands of victims in the United States. It is happening all

around us and people have to be aware of that before it can be stopped. The victims are

waiting for you to notice it. It can start with an innocent relationship that turns violent and the

girl becomes afraid, scared to stand up for herself and hopes others will notice her struggle.
According to Charlotte Stories, there is an average of 78 sex trafficking cases every year in

North Carolina and Charlotte is the #1 city. It is happening closer than we think it is. It is a very

secrete industry and for many, it goes unnoticed, but there is many people trying to prevent it,

and provide comfort for the victims.

A popular organization fighting to prevent sex trafficking is called Polaris Project that

was founded in 2002. They are attempting to help victims who are afraid to come forward,

build the largest public data sets in the US, and enlist law enforcement to prevent and disrupt

it. They have a National Human Trafficking Hotline that people can call if they need help, or if

they see something they think they should report. This is a very efficient way of preventing sex

trafficking because bystanders and/or victims can easily and anonymously report it and get help

for the victims. Another popular organization is Shared Hope International. An organization

much like Polaris Project, they are fighting to prevent sex trafficking, restore the victim’s lives,

and bring justice. Organizations like this are what help the victims stand up against their

traffickers. These can bring the victims closure after their experience and possibly even a job

and a home in order to pursue a normal life again.

There are many myths about sex trafficking that people have to be aware of. People

often think that sex trafficking is something that happens across international borders, never

right in America. Although it happens worldwide, people have to realize that is a local issue and

if they aren’t aware they could potentially be the next victim. Another myth is that there must

be evidence of a physical force or bondage to consider it sex trafficking. Even if the victims are

physically tied up doesn’t mean they can escape. Many victims are threatened that if they leave

they will be found and killed, therefore the victims are verbally restrained and are too scared to
try to leave or run away. Lastly, a very popular false accusation is that if they are a victim they

will immediately come forward to the police and ask for help. There are multiple reasons that

this is myth. The victims are traumatized after the unimaginable situation they have been put

through and some don’t have the courage to come forward immediately, or ever and face what

has happened to them. Another reason is that they are afraid of being accused of a crime

rather than be treated as a victim and have a significant amount of trust issues. Lastly, these

victims often blame themselves for the situation and don’t want to come forward thinking it

was something they did wrong and shouldn’t have gotten themselves into. Therefore, when it

comes to recognizing victims of sex trafficking, you need to be aware of the signs and possible

experiences the victim is going through in order to help them. You can’t always believe what

you hear, myths like these come up a lot in sex trafficking. You need to educate yourself about

the topic in order to prevent what is happening.

One major problem with sex trafficking is mistaking it for kidnapping, prostitution, or

rape. People have to understand the issue before a real change is made. Sex trafficking is not

simply kidnapping, or a rape investigation. Many victims are afraid to come forward because of

the fear of getting accused of prostitution. In a recent case, a 24-year old woman was

persuaded to get in a vehicle with a strange man on her way home from a friend’ house. He

gave her ecstasy tablets and told her that she was his property. 4 years later she got arrested

and accused of prostitution. Once she bravely told her story she got help and the charges

dropped because it was proved against her will. Sadly, in some states, laws against sex

trafficking aren’t put into place and the victims only hope is a good lawyer. These states need

laws against it in order to allow for the victim to have future jobs, housing, and a social life.
Yet another large issue when it comes to portraying sex trafficking is the media. Many

movies assume the trafficker is a strong gangster who takes innocent girls. The traffickers aren’t

always powerful pimps, they could be clean cut, nice men or in some cases, normal women.

The victims aren’t always innocent women, sometimes it can be children sold to the traffickers

by their parents, or women getting tricked and lured into the industry. It is even common for

women to make the choice to be trafficked because they can’t get a job, but soon regretting it

after realizing there It is extremely difficulty to escape and heal from. Therefore, watching a

movie about sex trafficking does bring fear, but doesn’t supply you with all the things you

should look for when trying to prevent sex trafficking from happening.

A big question for most people who aren’t educated about sex trafficking is what makes

you susceptible to sex trafficking. There is nothing that makes you specifically susceptible. It

could happen to the girl that you see in class every day, that is dreaming of becoming a nurse,

who listens to Ariana Grande, and gushes about her boyfriend. Girls, just every day girls/women

who are like everyone else. To give a good example, Equality Now, who helps advance women’s

and girl’s rights – explains a story about a girl named Ruth who was just 12 years old when her

mother’s boyfriend raped her. She then ran away and was picked up by a pimp and forced to

have sex for money. She escaped and became a poet where she wrote the poem Finish Line.

“See, none of this would have happened if I had help from the start – see, for me, it started in

this place that sometimes felt like hell, - But I still had to call it home” In this excerpt of her

poem she tells how it happened right in her own home. A 12-year old girl, susceptible to sex

trafficking, in a place where she should feel safe? What made her so susceptible to sex

trafficking? That is a perfect example of how it can happen anywhere and to anyone. If there
are signs that it could happen you should immediately ask for help to get yourself out of the

situation. It can happen to anyone, so be aware of your surrounds for your own safety as well

as the people around you.

In October 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was enacted. And in the

following years up until 2013, 9 more acts were put into place to prevent sex trafficking.

Although these were enacted, the trafficking still hasn’t stopped. It is now more popular than

ever and people will always refuse to follow these laws. These laws could be more effective if

enacted in all states. In some states, sex trafficking isn’t a conviction in the court, so like in the

paragraph earlier, the victim had to get the prostitution charges she was accused of dropped in

order to continue with a normal life. Worrying about a criminal record should not be a victims’

problem because they should be getting help and the trafficker should be found and charged.

The steps to start preventing sex trafficking is to be aware of it happening around you,

investigating the cases more in depth to find and stop the trafficker instead of just help the one

single victim, and not mistake it as rape, kidnapping, or prostitution. It is a big industry that may

never be completely stopped but it can be reduced by a significant amount if those few steps

were taken more seriously.

Sex trafficking is a devastating thing and a very difficult topic to comprehend. Many

women are scared to be alone because of the stories they have heard, and the fear that is

imposed on them about being taken and forced into sex trafficking. No matter where you live in

the United States, there is a strong chance that it is happening nearby. Whether it be at the

Walmart where you shop, or the next-door neighbor. Sex trafficking strips people of their

freedom and scars them for life. If every person was aware of it and tried avoiding it or help
victims it would a world of difference, literally. It is a depressing thing and once you know the

realities of it, you will want to take-action and do these things to help prevent it.
Works Cited:

“Sex Trafficking.” Polaris, 26 Oct. 2017,

“What Is Sex Trafficking?” Shared Hope International,


Robinson, Adrianna. “The Charlotte Region Is Now #1 In North Carolina For Human
Trafficking.” Charlotte Stories, 23 Jan. 2018,

Jesionka, Natalie. “Human Trafficking: The Myths and the Realities.” Free Career Advice, The
Muse, 17 Jan. 2012,

“R, J, L & V.” Equality Now,

“Human Trafficking Victims Accused of Prostitution.”,