The Duncan Banner

August 27, 2013

Human trafficking a nightmare problem in Oklahoma

Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — More than 300,000 boys and girls are reported missing each year. And many of these children are taken into a multi-billion dollar industry, where they are exploited.

Suzi Hanson, with the Beautiful Dreams Society, talked about human trafficking during a program Aug. 19, at First Christian Church. Hanson said human trafficking is a form of slavery, whether its labor or sexually related.

“There are more slaves in the world today than any other time,” Hanson said. “There’s about 27 million slaves worldwide. The numbers are on the rise. We’re talking about human lives; it’s astronomical.”

The three interstates moving through Oklahoma make the state one of the states with the worst human trafficking problems in the United States. Several area states, including Texas, which is No. 2, are also high on the list.

Hanson said targets are usually people with vulnerabilities.  Eighty percent of people sold into human trafficking are females. The average age of victims are 12 years old, although the age is getting younger.

Most of people taken into human trafficking are drawn in by deception, not kidnapped.

“It not until they’re in the trap that we see the force, which is the abuse,” Hanson said. “The chains (of the victims) aren’t on the outside; they’re psychological.”

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second to drugs. In fact, it’s a $32 billion industry each year.”

Hanson said one of the best ways to combat human trafficking is to make people aware of what’s happening and to take better care of children so they aren’t as easily duped by traffickers.

Some of the vulnerabilities traffickers look for include low income/poverty/low education, children growing up in alcohol and drug addictive family systems or cultures, children who have been or are in the foster care system, troubled teens, minors on online social networks, runaways and throwaways.

She said some of the traffickers will befriend their child victims first to earn trust. She said that makes it easier, especially if the child is unhappy at home and school, to lure the child away from home.

“We have to really think how we’re treating our kids in school,” Hanson said. “They want to be loved. They want to be liked. They want to be cared about.”

Hanson said one misconception of human trafficking is that victims are usually taken away from their families. She said some victims are still in their daily lives, but are still considered trafficking victims.

She said some of these children are blackmailed by the traffickers.

“Often times, the kids blame themselves,” Hanson said. “Often times, they don’t realize they are victims or they have a trauma bond with the exploiter.”

The national hotline to offer tips about possible victims is 888-373-7888. The Oklahoma City hotline is 855-617-2288.