U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking president and co-founder Kevin Malone is raising awareness on how human trafficking is occurring in America and how people should be "outraged" about it. The organization is behind the country's only accredited safe house for trafficked boys.
USIAHT, which describes itself as a "nonprofit, faith-based organization," works with legislators to develop anti-trafficking policies and with the youth to educate and raise awareness on current issues on child trafficking.
"People need to be outraged that this is happening to our boys and girls all over the country - that it is our own boys and girls," Malone, who also previously served as the general manager of the L.A. Dodgers professional baseball team, explained to the Christian Post.
"It's happening internationally, too, but it's in our own backyards. It's our own kids. They are one or two or three degrees of separation away from being somehow connected to this."
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines trafficking as any moment in which an individual is subjected to "force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control."
USIAHT chief operating officer Micah Washinski argued that what "most of America thinks human trafficking is," such as that shown in movies, is not what is happening today. Instead, it's a child's own parents or relatives who fall victim to trafficking for a variety of reasons.
Washinski explained, "It's mostly through the use of fraud or coercion that comes into play, oftentimes with people that are known to them. So families are victimizing their own children, their own grandchildren through coercion."
Washinski added that victims of child trafficking often grow up not thinking that "they're useful in any other regard" because they had been "used for their bodies as long as they can remember." These victims become "resigned" and "objectified." She lamented, "They're an object, they're not made in the image of God, they're viewed as just objects to be used for whatever pleasures or reasons that these manipulators are using."
The global human trafficking industry is worth up to $150 billion annually, with the U.S. leading the demand, the International Labour Organization said. Multiple reports showed that hundreds of thousands of young Americans aged 18 and below fall victim to the commercial sex trade every year.
USIAHT's statistics show that the 36% of sex-trafficked children in the U.S. are males, but some studies show it has reached 50%. Social media, which has significantly contributed to the human trafficking problem, is now seen as a tool for traffickers, given that the youth use it to seek attention.
Washinski explained that social media is an "epidemic" that forces people to put up a "facade" because it is "not truly who you are," but instead "what people want [you] to be." She added, "Our kids have learned to put on this mask to make other people like us. That opens us up to vulnerabilities because now we're so worried about what somebody else thinks versus what God thinks."
GOP leaders in some states continue to crack down on sex traffickers, with the latest being in Kentucky, the Associated Press reported earlier this month. A recent sting operation resulted in the arrest of up to 46 trafficking violators and the rescue of 21 victims. Gov. Andy Beshear said human trafficking was "one of the worst evils imaginable" and vowed to hold violators accountable and give victims a voice in the fight against human trafficking.