The recent news about Jeffrey Epstein's arrest in New York on new sex-trafficking charges involving allegations that date to the early 2000s is alarming to many.
It wasn't for us. That's the bad news. The Just Ask Trafficking Prevention Foundation, a global leader in combating human trafficking, is all too familiar with cases like Epstein's.
The good news is we're doing something about it. Our real-world experience and global knowledge about combating human trafficking enables us to do much more than sympathize with Epstein's victims of these alleged new crimes. We know how to fight back, and we are.
To better understand what we do and why we first must understand what sex trafficking is. The federal government defines It as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age (22 USC § 7102).
The battle plan to win a war against the multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry is not a complicated one. Winning is simply a matter of understanding and then eliminating the logistics behind the world's second-largest criminal enterprise.
Logistics? Yes, we need to reduce both the supply of victims for human traffickers and the demand for them.
Our best weapon? Human trafficking awareness and prevention is the most effective and least expensive method to reduce and ultimately eliminate the supply and demand for the sex trafficking industry.
First, we must stop the supply of human trafficking victims by educating at-risk populations about what human trafficking is, how they can be targeted, and what to do to become immune to their tactics. Most victims fall prey to predators like Epstein because they are unaware they are being lured in by lies or false promises for things like money, prestige, power or safety until it is too late. Then, trapped, the victims become resolved to their fate, impoverished, or at the very worse, suicidal because of their sense of hopelessness. On average, once a person becomes involved in human trafficking, their life expectancy plummets to just seven years because of the enormous stress and physical abuse their bodies and minds endure.
One of our most effective programs is our school-based curriculum, which has reached more than 160,000 students worldwide and continues to grow. In northern Virginia, two counties, Fairfax and Loudoun, employ our programming directly through the school system's Family Life Education path maximizing the opportunity to engage our children when they are most at risk. Programming in schools is critical because it's where most of the victims are. Statistically speaking, the primary target for predators are girls between the ages of 14 to 16 years old.
Secondly, we need to acknowledge criminals like Jeffrey Epstein exists. Our awareness of them is the first step toward defeating them. As awareness grows for potential victims, awareness grows for prospective clients of human traffickers. By educating potential sex trafficking clients about the realities of prostitution and sex trafficking as a crime, research has proven it lowers demand by swaying them not to purchase sex or tolerate or support the practice of buying sex within their peer groups. In addition to awareness programs, the enforcement of our human trafficking laws can help deter future criminals.
If you want to help us eradicate human trafficking, visit our website at www.justaskprevention.org.
Bill Woolf is the executive director of the Just Ask Trafficking Prevention Foundation.