The average sex trafficking victim is 11 to 12 years old.
Within days or even hours of running away from home, many runaway children are approached by people wishing to help.
Some of these people provide comfort and security as a front to draw children in, making them feel as though they belong.
In some cases not long after a child is taken in, they become nothing more than a commodity.
They’re used not only for prostitution but also in gang organized crimes.
According to Trisha Garcia-Brown, the training program coordinator for Health Services, victims threatened with violence will go through a “moral development” period.
Although the adolescent will initially resist, they soon realize in order to stay safe they must go along with their captures.
This is also known as Stockholm Syndrome.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church held the second of five meetings related to human trafficking Saturday, March 15. Detectives Jason Pietrzak and Tim Brady, who head Boise’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC)task force, discussed child sex trafficking and why it takes place within Boise’s community.
“Not a week goes by that I don’t have at least one child in my office under the age of 13,” Pietrzak said in reference to sexually related crimes against children.
The reference is not arbitrary.
According to Brady, seven out of nine children being trafficked have been sexually abused at some point in their childhood. Most of the time this happens from someone the child may know such as a relative or family friend.
ICAC investigators also believe that a major problem stems from the Internet and its availability to younger children.
“People interested in children go where kids play online,” Pietrzak said. “There is no safe place for them.”
According to a statistic presented during the meeting, the U.S. is number one in the world at the manufacturing and consumption of child pornography. When ICAC carries out a warrant, they usually find thousands of these photos on the suspect’s computer. For these people, Pietrzak said it’s not just a curiosity.
“If we do 10 warrants, eight of those people have sexually abused a child,” Pietrzak said.
Many of these children don’t come forward however.
Pietrzak feels the biggest reason for this is that children in these circumstances have no one to tell. They fear the consequences of telling a parent or anyone else.
What’s more disturbing is when these children are arrested and released, most often they go back to the same people who were using them for profit.
The explanation for this is simple. “What these kids live with at home is worse,” Pietrzak said.
ICAC investigators are becoming more aware of this growing problem in Boise.
They’ve recently developed a program for teaching awareness to sixth grade students, which is now in 12-15 schools throughout Boise.
This is not the end of the problem however.
“At some point we have to look at ourselves as a culture, or nothing will change,” Brady said.