The image of human trafficking is one of women being smuggled across foreign borders into sex rings, or of children being abducted from Third World countries and forced into slave labor, but a form of sex trafficking of juveniles and young women is happening in cities like Columbus, the Coumbus Dispatch reports. Pimps and their recruiters target girls in schools and shopping malls, on Internet sites and college campuses, and elsewhere. They trick or coerce them into prostitution. The U.S. Department of State estimates that 15,000 to 18,000 women and girls are trafficked in the U.S. each year. Up to 300,000 may be at risk because they live in poverty, have a family history of abuse or are vulnerable for other reasons.
An examination of sex trafficking confirmed that it is a serious and growing threat, largely invisible and vastly underreported. The problem is not limited to the inner city. According to law enforcement, it extends to affluent suburbs where pimps are increasingly looking for unsuspecting and naive girls. “If these girls don’t have good role models or a guiding force in their life, they are left wide open to this kind of activity,” said Eric Fenner of Franklin County, Ohio, Children Services. “These are smooth-talking people in most cases who have made coercing these young girls into a science. We need to recognize that these girls are victims.”