The Connection Between Human Trafficking and CASA Volunteers
When we think about what the average 15-year-old in America is doing, we might think about things like playing on TikTok, doing homework, and sleeping a lot. What we don’t often associate with being a teen today is human trafficking, yet nationally, the average age of a trafficked individual is 15 years. And, 60% of victims have foster care and group home experience.
Sex trafficking targets the most vulnerable people, and rarely appears how television and movies portray it. Traffickers typically have a relationship with their victims; this allows them to slowly manipulate the relationship over time, making the control and abuse more difficult to identify. In addition to identifiable signs of abuse, young people who are being trafficked might:
- Be living in poor conditions (lots of non-family members in a small, unkempt space)
- Display submissive behavior
- Have difficulty speaking alone
As online safety remains a concern, we can encourage young people to not share their location on applications. We can help them make an exit plan if a conversation becomes uncomfortable or unsafe, and advise them to be hesitant to trust people they only know online. Lastly, we can remind them to always tell a grown up (guardian, CASA Volunteer, teacher) if they have questions or concerns.
Young people with foster care experience are more vulnerable to trafficking, and LGBTQ+ youth are a population at even higher risk. LGBTQ+ teens in foster care are often stigmatized by their families or communities, leaving them more susceptible to experience homelessness, and to predatory adults with the intent of trafficking.
As CASA Volunteers during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we can bring awareness to those most impacted by trafficking. We can learn and share how to help young survivors of trafficking, and advocate for services that help them heal. As of 2021, Ohio ranks among the 10 worst states for trafficking. Which is why last year, HB 431 was passed by state legislature, closing a loophole for 16 and 17-year-old victims and extending much needed protection to all of Ohio’s vulnerable young people.
For more information on how to identify and help prevent trafficking, visit childwelfare.gov