Modern-day slavery in Acadiana
By Julie Hasling
“The sex trafficking of children in the U.S. is one of the most shocking and hidden crimes against our nation’s youth. Approximately 83 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims in this country are United States citizens, and 40 percent of cases involve children. In total, from what few statistics have been gathered, at least 100,000 American children every year are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.” (Excerpt from MADE IN THE USA: The Sex Trafficking of America’s Children)
Human trafficking is reaching epidemic proportions—not just in poor countries and communities but right here, in our state and in our city. According to Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services’ 2019 Annual Human Trafficking Report, there were approximately 700 human trafficking victims in our state in 2018. Let’s look at some of the specifics from this report:
• 641 (94.1%) were sex trafficking victims while 29 (5.1%) were sex & labor trafficking victims.
• Of all reported victims 356 (52%) were identified as juveniles which was a 77% increase from the previous year.
• The saddest piece of data given was that 72 of those sex trafficking juvenile victims were ages 12 and under.
Several factors contribute to the increase in human trafficking in the Acadiana area. First, our geographic location and proximity to Interstates 10 and 49 contribute to the influx of traffic. In fact, the Department of Justice calls Interstate 10 a “super highway for human trafficking.” Traffickers can escape town as quickly as they came in.
Another reason for the surge in human trafficking is simply due to its lucrative nature—it’s a 150 billion dollar a year industry. And unlike drugs that are consumed once, a victim can be sold over and over again, making it very profitable for traffickers.
Due to under reporting, no one knows the exact number of sex trafficking victims there are in this country or in Acadiana. But we can still make a difference! By educating ourselves and learning how to spot a trafficked victim, we could save a life! Some of the trafficking indicators are signs of physical and emotional abuse, bruising, burn marks, cuts, tattoos or branding marks, unexplained absences from home or school, dressing inappropriately, unexplained access to money, angry, withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out.
By becoming more aware of our surroundings and the activities within our communities, we can take steps in bringing an end to this horrific crime! Here’s how you can protect yourself and your children from becoming a victim to trafficking.
1. Educate your kids about human trafficking—that it’s here, in our area and it can happen in any neighborhood and in any school. Teach kids to be aware, how to spot the signs of trafficking and to talk to you or another responsible adult if they think they see it.
2. Technology is a big part of how sex trafficking happens with youth. Know your kid’s passwords, know what is on their phone.
3. Keep all social media accounts set as a “private” account. Do not allow them to accept friend requests or follower requests from people they have not actually met in person.
4. Tell them not to post or text any compromising pictures or videos of themselves to anyone, anywhere. Traffickers can get a hold of them to blackmail and trap unsuspecting kids.
5. Technological devices now exist which include GPS tracking devices which can be placed on phones, clothes, and in backpacks which help parents and authorities track your child and find them when they first go missing. DNA scent kits which can be used to help authorities and dogs track a scent trail.
6. Know your kid’s friends. Have them over to your home. Sit down and talk with them. Know where they hang out and what they are like.
7. Get youth involved in positive things, community groups, sports, music, community service, and church youth groups. Surround them with positive peer pressure.
If you see something, say something. Do not hesitate to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual, anti-trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888, Text 233733, or locally, The Hearts of Hope at 337-233-7273 or call 911.
For more information and resources, go online to:
National Human Trafficking Hotline
National Center on Sexual Exploitation
The Polaris Project
Dept. of Homeland Security/Blue Campaign
Hearts of Hope
LA Department of Children and Family Services
Louisiana Coalition Against Human Trafficking
15 Apps Parents Should Look Out For On Their Kids’ Phones
The Dirty Dozen
Local Moms Pose as Children Online to Trap Predators
7 Things You Didn’t Know About Human Trafficking
Dangerous hashtags parents use could attract child predators
What predators look for when you post photos of your children