August 22, 2019. Our program featured Bethlehem Rotarian Jill Long representing the District 7430 Rotary Action Group Against Sex Trafficking (RAGAS). The volunteer group brings together resources of our District Rotary Clubs and our communities in the fight to end human slavery and sex trafficking. Their mission is to provide awareness and support to survivors of human trafficking in our community through collaboration with other independent service providers and government agencies.
This is a world-wide problem and our community is not immune. It is happening here in Pennsylvania every day. It happens at truck stops, hotels, fake spas, and online. The average age of trafficked people is 12 to 14. Mostly girls, they are enslaved through fraud, coercion, or force. The process often takes many months as they are groomed for the job. May of the victims are unhappy. They are lonely. Often coming from abusive families. The trafficker provides them with friendship, gifts, and the illusion of safety. Eventually, the trafficker is in complete control. Victims have no identity. They are deprived of food, water, sleep, and medical care. They are ruled by fear. The criminals have a highly profitable commodity. Illegal drugs can only be sold once. A human being can be sold over and over. Some girls are known to have as many as 1,800 sexual encounters in a year.
Sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and the second most profitable at $150 billion per year. 1 in 4 homeless or runaway children have been victims. It is estimated that over 100,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States every year. 199 cases were reported in Pennsylvania in 2018. How many go unreported? November 2-9 is Lehigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Awareness Week. Saturday, November 9 will feature a screening of "from Liberty to Captivity" at the ArtsQuest Bank Theatre. The documentary focuses on the booming trafficking business in Pennsylvania.