Trafficking in the Lehigh Valley
“Human Trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world and is the 2nd largest criminal activity with drug trafficking being number one. Human trafficking can be in the form of labor or commercial sexual exploitation.” Valley Against Sex Trafficking (VAST).
Talking about prostitution often finds people sharing misconceptions – wrong ideas about what it means when a girl or woman is trapped in sexploitation. There is a notion that the sex industry can be acceptable. In reality, most women who are prostituted come from poverty, from abuse, or from incest or sexploitation.
A local organization named VAST, the Valley Against Sex Trafficking, has a simple plan for working to end sex trafficking: Awareness, Action, and Aftercare.
Awareness means educating the community, building a network to identify signs of trafficking and identifying at-risk populations; Action means working toward effective legislation, enforcement of existing laws and rescuing trafficking victims; and Aftercare means caring for the needs of victims and reintegrating them into the community.
Sex trafficking is not, as may be assumed, moving girls and women from place to place; rather, trafficking looks like this: • Pimp-controlled street/indoor prostitution • Commercial-front massage parlors • Strip clubs • Closed residential brothels • Victims advertised on internet sites, then placed in hotels/motels where customers use them • Commercial-front business, agricultural operations • In PA, many truck stops are known for playing host to sex trafficking.
The average age of entering into prostitution is 13 years old.
According to VAST, young girls are lured into prostitution as a means of survival and, often, with promises of love and caring by the men who exploit them. Once trapped, victims have little hope of extricating themselves. The “sweeps” that round up prostitutes and the men who patronize them usually label the girls as juvenile delinquents while the men are often free from serious punishment.
Victims of trafficking, in the Lehigh Valley and around the world, need hope and services – food, health care, job training, help getting a job, and housing.
For more information, visit the VAST web site: http://thevast.org/.