Even though child sex trafficking is an alarmingly widespread issue in our society, it is often swept under the rug because it’s so uncomfortable to talk about.

The problem is that so few of us are willing to admit to its existence to ourselves as well as to others. We simply ignore this as something that couldn’t happen in our ‘safe’ neighborhoods, to us or someone we know, and often assume it’s something that only happens in foreign countries.

The thing is, child sex trafficking is way more common than a lot of people realize and it is happening in Canada, in the United States, and it’s happening right under our noses. It is something that all of us should be concerned about.

Human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms, and is set to surpass the illegal sale of drugs within the next few years. An estimated $32 billion a year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and is prevalent in all 50 states.

Children who run away from problems at home are often easy targets and are easily exploited due to their homelessness, emotional vulnerability, and desperation for money. This commercial sexual exploitation is not limited to any particular ethnic, racial or socioeconomic groups even though children from lower income families seem to be at a higher risk.

People can be lured, bought and sold into the sex trafficking industry in several different ways — through newspaper ads, fake employment agencies, word of mouth, or outright abduction. The traffickers can be friends, neighbors, family members etc. However, in recent times traffickers are increasingly part of organized crime syndicates who are often in cahoots with corrupt government officials, law enforcement agents, and employers.

Victims are generally isolated under lock, unable to get in touch with their families; they are repeatedly exploited, abused, and raped. They are subjected to severe psychological trauma designed to compel them into thinking that what is happening to them is their own fault. They soon reach the point where they feel they are solely deserving of the treatment that they are receiving. Traffickers will also threaten the victims’ families, and use fear, shame to control and keep them imprisoned.

In the future, maybe we can live in a world where sex trafficking has ceased to exist and all this is just a dim memory of our past, but till then, we should all make an effort to help in any way we can. To know about ways you can participate in, contribute or donate to the fight against trafficking and raising awareness, click here.