Sex Trafficking in the DC Area: Where are our girls and what are the signs?

Zyria, Editor-in-Chief

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A young girl was walking home from school one day when she realized she was being followed. A group of men followed behind her, slowly approaching closer and closer. The girl gets to a stopping place and pulls out her phone. A man, seen approaching in a security camera, ducks slowly and moves away from her. In another instance, a woman approaches her car to see a bag tied to the windshield. Working to untie it, men in a van snatch her away from the car, stuff her inside, and drive away. These scenarios have happened multiple times in the DC area. But that’s DC, of course. It’s the US capital, and the city’s pace is way quicker than in run-of-the-mill Gaffney.

Reading these scenarios but dismissing the fear that comes with the possibility of being stolen, you and your little sister go to the Yellow Mall for a little shopping. Your sister just has to go to into Rue 21, but you have other thoughts in mind. Her being of age to shop alone, you leave to go to Journeys for just a second. Five minutes or so later, after a quick look around, you walk back down to Rue 21 to get your sister. Walking inside, you look around casually, waiting for her to come out of the dressing room or to approach you. Five minutes turn into 10 minutes and soon, you’re walking through the dressing room and around the store,  more frantic as seconds elapse. Your sister is nowhere to be found. You’ve been to the Yellow Mall with your sister thousands of times. Y’all have separated thousands of times and met back every time, with no complications. This time, however, you failed to notice the two men casually looking around, no attention being brought on themselves. You didn’t notice one of them slyly eye your sister as she bounced off to look around in her favorite store. You were doing a casual thing that you’ve done millions of times, just like the hundreds of women and girls who were walking to their cars after work or the gym or walking home from school. They’ve taken this route thousands of times and they’ve never had any trouble; they park in the same spot for every visit to work or the gym and they’ve never come across an issue. Until now.

Sex trafficking and human trafficking is not an elaborate or dramatic process that we imagine it to be, due to media and movies. We fail to realize that women are being stolen out of ordinary scenarios, just because they happened to be in sight when a predator was near. In DC, right now, Latina and African American girls are being captured in dozens in their regular routines by the day. Women of all ages have been targeted, with only a few getting away or realizing what was going on. Oddly enough, the media has been vaguely or not at all covering the extreme danger that is going on in the area. The youth, in DC and around the country, have been utilizing social media to raise awareness about the issue, either advocating for victims in their families or educating their timelines about the tactics being used to capture women.

The average age of missing teens range from 14 to 18, and authorities have advised teenagers to stay in their homes and not to roam outside or go out unless absolutely necessary. However, do not let the age range stop you or family members from being extremely careful. Women and men can be targeted just the same.

To be safe:

Make sure to draw attention to yourself by talking loudly or making a scene. If you still have your phone in use, there is a program specifically for these situations; National Human Trafficking Hotline, 233733 [BeFree]. If you feel as if you’re being targeted, make sure to call 911 beforehand. If you see anyone exhibiting strange behavior as if they are in danger, make sure to keep tabs on the person that you feel is targeting them and to contact the authorities as soon as possible.