Statement: Victims of child sex trafficking hiding in plain sightWritten by SAFE
Child sex trafficking is not a conspiracy theory, nor should it be treated as one. There are approximately 79,000 victims of youth and minor sex trafficking in Texas at any given time—and because this is a hidden population and cases are under-reported, these numbers are likely to be much higher.
At SAFE, our CARES program is working to address the economic, social, and personal costs of trafficking with survivor-centered and preventative solutions; we talk with youth “in the life” every day, giving them the support they need to exit sex trafficking. CARES works extensively along the trafficking continuum, from prevention to recovery and beyond.
Harmful narratives impede progress along this continuum. Commercial child exploitation is an enormous problem and we welcome the work of groups trying to support survivors and stop sex trafficking. But elements of the anti-trafficking movement often fuel misconceptions by promoting the use of images and media of children kidnapped, tied up, and beaten. We acknowledge that this can and does happen and we do not want to detract from is horrific reality, but we must be careful to understand the myths around child sex trafficking.
The recent viral movement describes a conspiracy of kidnappings and misinformation, which distorts the already inaccurate public perceptions of what trafficking looks like. Most children are not stolen or lured away by a stranger—they are more often trafficked by someone they know. Sex trafficking frequently involves trading sex for basic needs—not a random kidnapping. The reality is, most children who are sold for sex are being trafficked by family or friends. And that is the true societal tragedy. When we subscribe to misconceptions, we are in danger of missing the vast majority of victims who are hidden in plain sight.