Saturday, May 18, 2013
Sex Trafficking of Native Women, Girls and Boys in Alaska Increasing
Police and social workers say it’s the vulnerability of a child that attracts the attention of sex traffickers.
During a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs meeting on Thursday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski questioned officials from the Department of Justice about the growing problem of Native youth exploited in the sex trade.
At the meeting the senator said, “We have had some really frightening instances where young women coming into town, coming in from the villages, are basically being picked up off the street and lost—gone for ever into these sex trafficking rings.”
But detectives with the Anchorage Police Department and social workers say that children of all races, ages, and backgrounds are potential targets. Typically, it’s the vulnerability of a child that attracts the attention of sex traffickers.
Detective Sergeant Kathy Lacey of the APD Vice Squad said sex traffickers are everywhere. “They're at malls, they're at the bus stations… they're on the streets of your town…that's what surprises people,” she explained.
Even children staying at “safe houses” are targets of sex trafficking, including those who live at the Anchorage branch of Covenant House Alaska, an organization that helps homeless teenagers.
Lauren Rice, its director of public affairs, said that children staying with them have been approached in the past but that it is important to realize that it’s not just homeless children and teens who are at risk.
“Recruitment of youth is going to occur wherever youth congregate. There are vulnerable kids in churches, in schools [and] in after school programs,” Rice said.
Lacey said that a first step to combating the problem is to be aware that it exists. “A lot of it is just knowing that it’s out there. People need to know that this is going on right in their neighborhoods.”
If you or someone you know is a part of the sex trade and are seeking help, you can contact police at 786-8900.