As human trafficking continues to oppress young children in the Bay Area, the issue is now becoming a serious concern in Marin County.
Between 100,000 and 300,000 children in the U.S. are victims of human trafficking, and or child pornography. The average age of these victims is 13 years old, but many are as young as 10 years of age.
California is the fourth largest destination for human trafficking in the U.S., with San Francisco as one of the key cities. The trafficking ring extends through Oakland, Fresno, Southern California, and San Francisco, including Marin County.
These cities have become a key destination where traffickers have recruited victims and transported them to other locations.
Human trafficking is a $30 to $100 billion industry worldwide, and is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world. It is second only to drug trafficking and tied to the smuggling of weapons, according to Laurel Botsford, a resident of Sausalito.
Botsford volunteers with Shared Hope International, a non-profit that works against human trafficking worldwide.
She added that unlike drugs and arms, human traffickers can repeatedly sell their victims, and it is harder to convict the trafficker with the victims knowing what to say when caught.
Botsford recently shared her concern for human trafficking at the Elks Club in San Rafael.
“These are American kids that are being trapped and secured in America by American traffickers and being bought by American buyers. We cannot feel entitled to treat another person’s body like a piece of commodity – that has got to change, and needs to be changed [so that we treat them with] respect and dignity,” said Botsford.
Most traffickers select and study their victims before they sell them, often using the Internet to recruit.
The trafficker, usually an older man, will manipulate the victim, usually a young girl, to feel pretty and loved by him. In reality, the trafficker is grooming the victim for prostitution, Botsford said.
Some victims may return back to the trafficker five to seven times despite being rescued, she added. Even when a victim has gone or been rescued, traffickers will continue to look for other girls to trap them into prostitution.
Botsford said labor trafficking in agriculture, restaurants, construction and domestic homes, is also underreported.
If you know of any victims of human trafficking, call the local law enforcement authorities.
For more information on human trafficking, visit Shared Hope International at sharedhope.org. Or, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888, or text BeFree (233733) to report sex trafficking, forced labor or to get help.