A recent report on sex trafficking in Hawaiʻi found that one in eleven men buy sex online. This snapshot of what’s driving demand for Hawai’i’s sex industry may have been shocking to some, but understanding what’s fueling the supply is equally as eye opening. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports.
For young and vulnerable Hawaiʻi teenagers, being recruited by sex traffickers may look a lot like love. A cute guy approaches a girl at the beach, the mall, the movies. Shes spoiled with gifts and affection. Then one day he asks her to do him a favor. If she really loves him, she will do it.
“So this is definitely happening to our kids and it is not like it is in the movies.”
That’s the voice of a doctor with the Pacific Survivor Center. She requested we not use her name as she works closely with sex trafficking survivors here in Hawaiʻi and in some cases testifies in court for sex trafficking cases.
“A lot of them have pre-trafficking trauma that they’ve experienced – most often child sex abuse and sex assault. But also things like domestic violence in the home, drug dependency in the home, homelessness, poverty, and marginalization,” she says.
She says oftentimes these teens are looking for the love and support that they don’t get at home. Intervention at age 15 or 16 may already be too late.
“Most of them have already been trafficked for a couple of years, we really need to reach them around 11, 12, 13, which is middle school,” say the doctor.
To engage Hawaiʻi middle schoolers, she produced a short animated film called Tricked: It Looked Like Love. The film includes first-hand accounts from Hawaiʻi teen sex trafficking survivors. Its part of a larger outreach effort called STOPP with two Ps.
“The Sex Trafficking Outreach and Prevention Program is a new imitative of the Pacific Survivor Center. We have been doing some presentations at schools, youth groups, interested youth organizations,” says Gwenyth Claughton, Development Director at the Pacific Survivors Center.
“We try to make sure the film is presented in conjunction with the curriculum because its important to have a facilitated discussion,” says Claughton.
The goal is to help Hawaiʻi students stop exploitation before it happens.
“We hope that they can recognize if it’s happening to them or their friends,” says the doctor, “We also hope for the kids who aren’t necessarily being recruited or being groomed but have experienced some of these other traumas will know where to go for help with that type of trauma.”