The time when you are most susceptible to sex trafficking

Danielle Ferguson

Sex trafficking, when a person is exploited to perform commercial sex acts by some form of force, fraud or coercion against his or her will, does not discriminate. 

Those running the business, however, do have a target market. That market is between the ages of 11 and 14. Ruth Buckels, though, has seen victims from 3 months to 71 years. 

Pimps, a legal term for people who sell someone else’s sexual services, know who to look for: vulnerable homeless or runaway youth, the majority being female. 

Pimps are typically 19 to 42 years old and split in half when it comes to gender. About half of the perpetrators are female, Buckels, who is mother to a human trafficking victim, said. 

The recurring theme pimps search for in victims is vulnerability, whether it be age, mental health state, poverty, homelessness, violence or addiction to sex and/or drugs. 

In Iowa, the time at which school-aged children are most susceptible to being targeted is the hours right after school gets out for the day, Buckels said. 

“Any time the parents have their backs turned,” Buckels said. 

She also said Monday and Tuesday mornings are the most common time at which children go missing. 

The best way to protect yourself, Buckels said, is to educate yourself and tell your friends and family where you are. Another tip she shared was to make sure your friends and family know you care about them because pimps will beat it into victims’ heads that nobody cares about them, erasing their drive to return home. 

Any time you feel watched or followed, Buckels said to go into a public place and stand behind the counter with a worker until someone you know and trust can come for you. 

Any suspicions of human trafficking should be reported to the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline: 1-888-373-7888.