INDIANAPOLIS (Indiana News Service): As its first year draws to an end, the Indiana Trafficking Victim Assistance Program is crunching numbers to determine what needs more focus in 2017.
Robin Donaldson, CEO of the Indiana Youth Services Association, says her organization worked with 168 young people who have been victims of human traffickers.
She says human trafficking is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world, generating roughly $150 billion annually.
In Indiana, 66 new cases were reported this year, involving more than 500 victims, mostly women and children. Donaldson says that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“It is happening and it goes unrecognized,” she states. “We have school law enforcement that are actually interacting with these young people who are being trafficked or exploited, and because we have this misperception of what trafficking really is, it gets missed.”
Across the nation, 91 percent of victims know the person exploiting them.
Donaldson says in Indiana, the number of parents exploiting their own children is higher than the national average. She says the program’s focus is on educating young people about healthy relationships, and training community members to recognize and prevent human trafficking.
Donaldson adds being able to spot a trafficker isn’t always easy, especially when it’s someone the child loves. She says parents sell their children for a number of reasons.
“For food, or money or drugs,” she explains. “Or a boyfriend or girlfriend that’s over-controlling that actually is trafficking them. So, that misperception that often is out there in Hollywood and media actually gets in the way of us being able to identify and recognize when it’s happening right in front of us.”
According to the Trafficking in Persons Report produced by the State Department, about 27 million men, women and children are victims of some form of human trafficking.