Friday, January 6, 2012

It Happens Here – Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation

Theresa Flores was 15, living in Birmingham, MI when she became trapped in a sex-slave operation for two years. “It happens here,” Flores says, “to white, middle-class teens who live in the suburbs. It’s easy to think that because you live in a nice neighborhood, you’re safe.1

Flores was on the track team, had a nice house and seemed like an ordinary suburban girl, but at night, she was subjected to horrendous abuse. Compelled to keep her secrets to protect her family from a scandal, she snuck out of the house - in compliance but against her will. This started with a crush in high school. Taking advantage of her affection, a 16 year old boy brought her to his house and raped her while others photographed the incident. The photos were used to blackmail her into cooperating, coerced into becoming a sex slave for the benefit of a criminal enterprise. She was finally free when her family moved, still unaware of her trauma.

Theresa Flores’ story is typical of sex-trafficking victims that Nicole McGee, Special Victims Agent, FBI-Michigan deals with daily.

Read more about Theresa Flores at her website:

Agent McGee spoke on October 17 for the LWVOA about the worldwide problem of human trafficking, including its prevalence within the United States. She works with human trafficking victims to advise them of their rights and assure that they get the help with short-term and long-term needs-like legal and repatriation services, immigration relief, housing, employment, education, job training, and child care. Human trafficking is about forced labor in general, but sexual exploitation is the most common.

Officer McGee shared some statistics about human trafficking in Michigan and beyond. Human trafficking affects virtually every region of the world, including metro Detroit. Sex trafficking accounts for at least 40% of all forced labor-human trafficking. Some experts estimate that it is more like 80%.2

Women and girls are the most vulnerable; trafficking victims tend to be the poorest and most vulnerable people coming from poor cities and countries.

Ms. McGee told us exploiters and pimps look for girls in malls, cinemas, even at high school events - anywhere teens gather with stragglers on the perimeter.

Kathy Gapa reported on the LWV Oakland Area Event for this article. Sexual exploitation of young girls in our community isn’t going away. Learn to identify and help those trapped in the sex trade with facts and resources from this Fact Sheet for Schools, “Human Trafficking of Children in the United States

[1] Terri Finch Hamilton, “Human Trafficking, exploitation is on the rise in Michigan”. The Grand Rapids Press <>. 10-27-2011

2Sexual Trafficking: the facts trafficking for sexual exploitation have become an epidemic in the past decade”. New Internationalist, <> 10-27-2011

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