A new report from the Office of Children and Family Services in New York shows that the state is experiencing a rise in sex trafficking, with many cases involving minors under the age of 18. Online platforms have been a major contributor to this trend, and social media played a role in the victimization or grooming of almost a quarter of the youth identified by the Safe Harbour Program in 2020.
Experts say that younger people are more vulnerable to trafficking as they lack awareness of how to protect themselves. Victims often come from at-risk backgrounds or have run away from home, leaving them without their basic needs being met.
Traffickers are utilizing social media platforms to build relationships with victims and create more opportunities for trafficking. Renee Henck, the Anti-Trafficking Coordinator for Safe Inc. of Schenectady, warns that the rise of cam sites has provided more avenues for trafficking.
To combat this issue, government agencies and nonprofit organizations have set up programs to provide all types of assistance to victims. The State of New York has created the Safe Harbour Program, which offers services to victims aged 21 and under. The program provides a checklist of potential red flags to child detective services and children’s mental health workers and providers to identify individuals at risk. Once identified, the Safe Harbour coordinator reaches out to the youth and their family to offer client-based services.
Advocates encourage people to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline or law enforcement if they suspect trafficking. The FBI investigates all tips that come in, and a simple call could save someone’s life.
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