It’s the 11th year for the FBI’s annual law enforcement action entitled Operation Cross Country.
The operation focuses on recovering underage victims of sexual slavery. It also aims to raise awareness about the huge problem our world faces of sex trafficking.
This four-day operation has expanded into Canada, the United Kingdom, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The FBI partnered with local, state and federal partners in law enforcement along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. This year’s action ended on October 15th.
To highlight the gravity of the situation, the FBI reported that its Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force, from Denver, recovered a 3-month-old girl and her 5-year-old sister. A friend who was staying with the family attempted to make a deal with an undercover agent to sell both girls for $600.
The FBI works every day on the threat of child sex trafficking. All recovered minors are treated and offered services by trained specialists – members of the FBI’s Victim Services Division or members of other local and state law enforcement agencies. They offer victims crisis intervention, resources, and medical attention.
This operation is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National initiative, started in 2003. Since then, this program has recovered over 6,500 children and prosecuted countless traffickers. More than 30 of those have received life sentences for this crime.
As I covered in the Theresa Flores story, since 2014 Michigan has had one of the best responses to human trafficking of any state. Governor Snyder signed into law a package of legislation. It makes it punishable by imprisonment for life. The new legislation also created the Human Trafficking Commission within the Attorney General’s Office.
Human Trafficking Awareness
If you are like most people, you might want to know how you could help.
How can you spot victims of human trafficking? Are there any outward signs that would let you know?
There is a more comprehensive description published as a fact sheet on the website for the Office On Trafficking In Persons. It is a division of the Administration for Children and Families. Here are a few points:
A victim could be a man who does not speak English who is suspiciously injured “on the job” and shows signs of old bruising. A victim could be an abused woman who doesn’t know what city she is in when brought to the emergency room, and who is accompanied by a controlling companion who insists on speaking for her. Additionally, a victim could be a fearful individual who quietly slips in and out of a local church on Sunday morning or a child who lives in the neighborhood, yet doesn’t go to school or play outside.
In addition, a victim may:
- May exhibit general feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt, self-blame, and humiliation;
- Suffer from shock and denial, or display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression;
- Suffer from sleep or eating disorders;
- Become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol as a way to cope with or “escape” their situation, or as a method of control used by their traffickers;
- Become emotionally numb, detached, and disassociated from the physical and psychological trauma and display “flat affect”; or
- Experience “trauma bonding” with the trafficker, positively identifying with the trafficker and believing that, despite the repeated abuse, the trafficker is a loving boyfriend, spouse, or parent.”
How to Keep Your Kids Safe
Kids who are most at risk are kids who have been sexually abused already. In addition, these kids have lower self-esteem and are more vulnerable to potential traffickers. However, kids don’t often talk about sexual abuse. In addition, the psychological responses above can also be indicative of a child who has suffered sexual abuse.
Kids are being targeted online. Talk to them about the dangers of sex trafficking. Make sure they know to report suspicious behavior. Open communication is key to knowing where your kids are and who they are with.
If you or anyone you know has been involved in human trafficking and you need help, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline number – 1 (888) 373-7888.
If you are facing charges for human trafficking, contact The David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC today.