Parents send their children off to school, expecting them to return home with knowledge and new friendships. But, some don’t return at all. It’s the chilling reality that no parent expects.
Human trafficking is an issue in the United States with about 100,000 cases reported each year. Florida accounts for about 400 of those cases. Overall, only one percent of sexual trafficking victims are identified. Of these trafficking victims, most common cases are usually associated with women.
“What people don’t know is that about half of sexually trafficked teenagers are boys,” said Nathan Earl, founder of Ark of Freedom, a nonprofit anti-trafficking organization.
In order to combat these numbers, organizations like Ark of Freedom, Project GOLD, and Refuge for Women, make efforts to raise awareness on signs of trafficking.
For example, Jorge Veitia, the executive director of Life of Freedom Center, an organization that helps stabilize the lives of females after sex trafficking, tackles signs of trafficking directly.
The organization searches for nearly 300 ads on Backpage, a website similar to Craigslist, for buying sex. Volunteers at the Life of Freedom Center will call these advertisers and offer solutions as well as lend an ear.
As a result of the uprising epidemic of human trafficking, people have taken to social media, posting careful messages about the signs of human trafficking. Recently, a post when viral overnight on Facebook and swept across different social media platforms.
The post warned drivers to be cautious if they found any material on their windshield as it is likely that someone is standing by, waiting for you to get out of the car.
Ashley Hardacre, a shopping mall employee, was walking toward her car after her shift when she found a blue flannel shirt tied to her windshield wiper. Puzzled, she drove to the nearest gas station and dialed 911. As she drove off, she noticed a shadow sitting in the passenger seat of the car beside her, waiting for her to be distracted by the decoy.
Since then, other warnings have popped up across Facebook. User Savannah Nguyen of Appleton, Wisconsin says someone also placed bait on the windshield wipers of her car, only this time it was something more distracting that a shirt.
Nguyen found a Kay Jewelers ring sitting on the windshield of her car. Aware of the tactics that have been used by sex traffickers, she got in her car and drove away as another vehicle pulled up to her car.
Using a multitude of different tactics across the country, leaders of sex trafficking rings can easily distract potential victims and catch them off-guard. Thanks to the power of social media, knowledge and awareness can be spread by people and organizations alike.