Child sex trafficking is alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. In a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, Seattle had the fastest growing commercial sex industry in the US, more than doubling in size between 2005 and 2012, being correlated to the boom in the tech sector in Washington state. Right now, between 2,000 and 3,000 of children and youth in Washington state under the age of 18 are being bought and sold for sex. And the average age of a victim is 12. Yes, 12 years old.
Child sex trafficking is an issue of power and privilege. Data shows that high-frequency sex buyers have relatively high incomes, are married and do not have criminal records. As for the victims, the data paints a different picture. Women and girls of color and/or of low-income background are disproportionately impacted by commercial sexual exploitation. In King County, Black people represent 6.9% of the county population, yet Black minor girls represent more than 40% of child sex trafficking victims identified through prosecutions.
But the fact is that there is significantly higher demand than supply for buying children and youth for sex. So, buyers and traffickers innovate. Online grooming and trafficking have increased significantly as technology and social media become more pervasive. One recent innovation is “Sugaring.” Sugaring is an exploitative practice where going on dates or having sex is exchanged for gifts and payments. Often, wealthy, older males (“sugardaddies) and females (“suugarmommies”) proposition younger, low-income girls, boys, young women and men (“sugarbabies”) promising luxury gifts, rent, tuition or cash.
StolenYouth, Washington state’s leading non-profit organization fighting to end child sex trafficking is hosting a virtual Town Hall event featuring information about the role of technology and the changing landscape of child sex trafficking. This event will take place Thursday, October 15th at 4:00PM Pacific. As a longtime supporter of StolenYouth, DNA is proud to be a key sponsor of this event. In addition, DNA will announce a new technology-driven program that the agency created called Project: SugarFree aimed at intercepting and reducing sugaring on social media.
If you would like more information or to register for Town Hall, please visit https://stolenyouth.org/events/#town