by Jenna Mckaye
When I ask people how they picture human trafficking happening they often compare it to the movie Taken - A young lady vacationing in Paris, kidnapped and sold by her captors. But if you ask most survivors of human-trafficking they will say they were not dragged out from under a bed and sold on a boat for 1/2 million dollars. While it can happen that way, here in America, domestic trafficking looks much different. Less than 10% are kidnapped. Traffickers lure away their victims by gaining their trust, posing as a boyfriend and by offering their victims false promises. The average age of a sex-trafficking victim is 12 to 14 years old. I read a quote from a trafficker that said, "It's impossible to protect all girls from guys like me. This is what we do. We eat, we sleep, we drink and we think of ways to trick young girls into doing what we want them to do."
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world.
There are more people in slavery today than any other time in history. With such big statistics, to fight it, every community has to be educated. A couple years ago I drove by a house here locally in Marysville, and there was obvious signs of trafficking going on. I called 911 and said I suspected trafficking going on in the house. When the officer arrived, he said, “Yes we are investigating. This guy is on parole for trafficking girls in the Bay Area.” As I sat there in my car I wasn't so surprised that it was happening or that the police were on to it, what frustrated me was all the people walking past that house having no idea what the signs were and to make a call. Statistics show that a girl that is trafficked has a seven-year life span. When we picture it happening only one way, then we are missing all the other ways it happens. When I survived it 13 years ago I had no idea that I was a victim of human trafficking. It wasn't like what you see in the movies. I was never educated on it in my small private high school. If I had been, not only could it have been prevented but I would have been able to rescue myself sooner. That is why I tour around the country, speaking and training others. Training First Responders on how to identify and respond to victims. Invitations to college campuses, community forums to educate others on how to identify trafficking in their community. I share my story to give hope to other survivors, and I started the Jenna McKaye Foundation to assist victims directly and set them up with services and resources. One of the best parts of my job is to look a victim in the eyes and say, “You are my past and I am your future.” I get to be the person that I needed all those years ago. It takes a community though. We are all in this fight together. All I want to know is that when I go into community and when I leave, there's an opportunity for it to be different for the next girl or boy. Somebody in the audience is going to change things in that community. There are all these survivors out there waiting for somebody to guide them, waiting for them to give them the opportunities to make a new life for themselves. In doing this work, I have realized that traffickers seem to be aware that we are not educating our students here in rural communities. They send recruiters, often one of their victims to befriend a girl and lure her away to a city, away from her support system, and then they trafficked her there. It’s a common theme among the victims of whom I am able to help. According to the National Center for missing and exploited children, 1 in 7 American kids will run away from home and 1 in 3 will become victims within 48 hours. I remember when I first started doing this work I read that statistic and the 48 hours’ time-frame really struck me. It wasn't until I started speaking and getting involved and meeting other survivor leaders that I realized how many others there were like me.
If you would like to learn more human trafficking and about what you can do to make a difference, please follow upcoming events and trainings on jennamckaye.com
If you see someone you think might be being trafficked, call the national human trafficking hot-line at (888-373-7888. It could save a life.