Child trafficking is an epidemic that plagues countries around the world, and the United States alone is home to thousands of children who are exploited each year. These victims often face a lifetime of trauma, both physical and psychological, and it is up to each and every one of us to help stop this horrific crime.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), nearly 19,000 children in the United States were reported as missing in 2022. Approximately a third of these cases were suspected to involve child trafficking.
Trends show us that when children run away frequently or for long periods of time, they tend to be running from an unsafe situation or to an unsafe situation. 1 in 6 of the more than 25,000 cases of children reported missing to NCMEC in 2022 who had run away were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
This is a sobering statistic that highlights the pervasive nature of the problem.
Child trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. This exploitation can take many forms, including forced labor, sexual exploitation, and even organ removal.
There are several reasons why children are targeted for trafficking. Poverty, lack of education, and social and economic instability are some of the main factors that make children vulnerable to traffickers. Traffickers often prey on children who are runaways, homeless, or who come from broken families.
The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem of child trafficking. As schools closed and social services were disrupted, children became even more isolated and vulnerable. The NCMEC reported a significant increase in reports of online enticement and other types of digital exploitation during the pandemic.
There are several signs that may indicate a child is being trafficked. These include physical signs such as bruises, scars, or burn marks, as well as behavioral signs such as sudden changes in behavior or unexplained absences from school. Children who are being trafficked may also be fearful, anxious, or depressed.
So, what can we do to help stop the epidemic of child trafficking? The NCMEC recommends several steps that anyone can take to help protect children from exploitation:
- Learn the signs of trafficking: By educating ourselves about the warning signs, we can be more aware of the problem and better equipped to help identify and report suspected cases of trafficking.
- Report suspicious activity: If you suspect that a child is being trafficked, it is important to report it to the authorities. You can contact local law enforcement, the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or submit a report online to the NCMEC.
- Support organizations that help victims of trafficking: There are several nonprofits and other organizations that work to help victims of trafficking. By supporting these organizations, we can help provide the resources and services that victims need to recover.
- Advocate for better laws and policies: We can also advocate for better laws and policies that help prevent child trafficking and provide better support for victims.
The fight against child trafficking is a daunting task, but it is not an insurmountable one. With the help of the public, law enforcement, and victim services organizations, we can help prevent the exploitation of vulnerable children and support the recovery of those who have already been victimized.
“Child Sex Trafficking.” National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,
“Child Trafficking.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.