Q&A with Ryan Day from Love146

We hear stories about child trafficking and exploitation happening in other countries, but rarely think of it as an issue in the U.S. Is trafficking limited to other countries or does is take place here at home too?

Human trafficking is something happening in every country, including ours. Love146 works to specifically combat child trafficking, which is a serious problem in the United States. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that more than 100,000 children are trafficked for sex every year. That’s just children and that’s just trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation. When you factor in men and women as well as trafficking for labor, you can see that this issue is a massive problem.

In the past few years there have been several cases where innocent and vulnerable children are solicited into sex trafficking through online channels like social media or chat rooms. What other tactics do traffickers use and is this a common way traffickers exploit children?

Traffickers are, first and foremost, exploiters. They look for opportunities and exploit vulnerabilities they see. Social media, chat rooms and Internet marketplaces like Craigslist and Backpage are havens for traffickers, but it can and does happen in real life too. We’ve encountered stories where a young woman was at a party, drugged, taken to a hotel room, sold for sex countless times and abandoned days later. It’s not as important to figure out the most-used venues by traffickers, but rather to remember that traffickers are strategically and actively looking for vulnerabilities.

Many people are shocked when they hear that the National Human Trafficking Resource Center recently ranked Florida third in the number of calls received by the center’s human trafficking hotline. Since this is obviously a growing problem in Florida, what can we do to raise awareness about this issue and crack down on this heinous activity?

The first thing you can do is put the National Human Trafficking Hotline in your phone: 1-888-3737-888. Keep it stored in your phone and if you see anything suspicious, report it. Also, it’s good to know the warning signs. Check out www.love146.org/report for practical examples of what trafficking could look like.

Hearing about this issue and knowing that it takes place everywhere certainly worries many parents. What practical steps can parents take to protect their children from being exploited?

Parents need to be keeping the lines of communication open with their children. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions like, “Where are you going?” or “When will you be home?” Have them check in with you during the night once or twice. Show them www.love146.org/report and go through the warning signs with them.

Love146 is an extraordinary organization dedicated to combating child trafficking and exploitation and helping restore survivors. What resources does Love146 have for people who want to learn more about this issue or join the cause?

If you’re just getting into the issue of human trafficking, we have an interactive tool where you can learn the basics about the issue. Check it out at www.love146.org/learn. Once you’re educated and you want to educate others, think about hosting an awareness event. You can find tools to do that at www.love146.org/events. Finally, consider giving to our cause. We’re working all over the world to restore survivors and prevent it from ever happening. You can give at www.love146.org/donate.