By Alison Stanton —
Every month, Teen Strong features one or two community programs and/or organizations that are making a difference in the lives of teenagers. Since January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we wanted to feature StreetLightUSA and let you know about the important work that they do.
Q: Please tell us about StreetLightUSA and the work that you do there.
A: StreetLightUSA was established in 2008. We provide crisis intervention, stabilization and housing through a variety of programs and services tailored to meet the needs of young girls at risk for and victims of child sex trafficking. Our mission is to transition girls “from trauma to triumph.”
Q: What do the terms “human trafficking” and “sex trafficking” mean?
A: The federal definition of human trafficking defines a “severe form of trafficking in persons” as:
Labor Trafficking – the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Sex trafficking – in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Q: Is sex and/or human trafficking a problem in Arizona?
A: Yes, according to the Department of Education, cases of human trafficking have been identified in all 50 states. A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation found that between 8,900 and 10,500 children, ages 13 to 17 are commercially exploited each year in the United States.
Q: How can we help teenage girls to stay safe and get the word out to them about this serious issue?
A: It is important to use all of the means at our disposal to raise awareness about the crime, recruiting tactics, its nature, causes and damage to victims; this includes the government, the faith-based community, families, the press, school, social media and private companies. Each and every entity must work toward promoting knowledge of this issue.
Q: Do sex traffickers sometimes kidnap women/teen girls from public places?
A: While kidnapping in public places does happen, traffickers tend to use more subtle means to lure women and children into their web. They use deceit, manipulation, lies, flattery and/or promises—a trafficker’s number one goal is to control the mind of his victim and get the victim to do what they want. Victims oftentimes believe they are in love with their trafficker because at one point the trafficker may have given the woman or child a false sense of security in order to get the child or woman under their control. Once a victim is under the control of a trafficker, the victim is turned out and the trafficker uses love and fear as a means to keep the victim under their control, and to keep them “working.”
Q: What are some tips for staying safe from human traffickers either in public or online?
A: There are a number of ways to stay safe:
- Trust your judgment. If a situation/individual makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling.
- Let a trusted friend/relative know if you feel like you are in danger or if a person/situation is suspicious.
- Keep important numbers on your person at all times, including the number of someone you feel safe contacting if you are in trouble.
- Make sure that you have a means of communication (cell phone or phone card), access to your bank account, and any medication that you might need with you at all times.
- If you think you might be in immediate danger or you are experiencing an emergency, contact 9-1-1 first.
Source: Skye Steele, CEO of StreetLightUSA. For more information, please visit www.streetlightusa.org.