Billboards going up across Oklahoma this month are targeting victims of child sex trafficking.
Studies show as many as 300,000 American kids are moved into the commercial sex industry every year. The average age of a young girl recruited by a pimp or trafficker into the sex trafficking industry is 13-years old. That’s why organizations and students across Green Country are working to raise awareness.
Part of the awareness is shedding light on intimate partner trafficking. This is where someone will trade their own children or someone close to them for a drug fix. It happened to a woman we’ll call Angela.
"Her choice was to take me and I just couldn't believe it, and sat there with my jaw on the floor,” says Angela.
Traded by her own mother for drugs, she was forced to service multiple men, including her mother’s dealer, for seven days straight.
"Anytime she needed her fix or whatever, she would take me and give me to him,” says Angela.
This went on for two years until she turned 15 and was placed into the care of her grandparents.
"I can see something on television that triggers something so it still to this day is an emotional toil,” she says.
Right now, Oklahoma Against Trafficking Humans or OATH is working hard to protect people like Angela before they are victimized.
"They'll take a girl, subject her to this and use her and as she gets a little bit older, they'll use her to go and recruit other young girls after they brainwashed her into this lifestyle,” says OATH director, Mark Elam.
By educating young people through chalk campaigns and creating the website, www.shes13.com
, OATH is working to make a difference.
"That is probably the biggest thing I have had to overcome is to not blame myself,” says Angela.
If you would like more information you can visit www.shes13.com or www.JoinOATH.com.
The FBI reports that predators will typically find their victims on the Internet or through a boyfriend or girlfriend who gains their trust and then introduces them into the industry.
If you suspect child sex trafficking in your area, you can call 1-800-995-0128.