I’m Not For Sale

The Trojan dives deep into Sex Trafficking

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I’m Not For Sale

Dana Labart, Reporter

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Sex trafficking in Kansas City has been on the rise in recent months, showing up in the news everywhere. This is a form of modern-day slavery where people are used for sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American children at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex.
The fear around sex trafficking doesn’t come from thin air though. Kansas City is often called a hub for sex trafficking, due to the high demand for online sexual services and the growing number of sex trafficking related cases. It also serves as a midpoint from the east to west coast, and from Canada to Mexico. The highway systems intersect right here, and this is potentially drawing these predators to our city.

Recently, there was even an instance near Park Hill. An unknown man was approaching young women and trying to get them in his car.

“The school district said it received several reports on Wednesday, August 29, that the man was trying to talk to girls and offered to give them rides as they waited for their bus,” Fox4 News said in their statement.

“It really worries me that there could’ve been a potential predator in my neighborhood.” said sophomore Callie Clopp.

Clopp noticed an unmarked white van, with tinted windows sitting in front of her house. A number of other students have also had scares.

Senior Lyliana Norris had an alarming encounter with people thought to be traffickers. She left her job around 11:30 p.m. when she noticed a car sitting outside. These men began to follow her in her car as she left. They got so close to her, she was almost run off the road. After what felt like hours of driving in circles, she finally was courageous enough to drive home where her dad was waiting on the porch for her.

“I was calling my dad because I was panicking and I was crying because I was scared. He told me to come to the house, but my initial thought was I don’t want to lead him to my house and then them know where I live.” The car sped away after she arrived home.

“The next day I went back to work and they had told me that I was going home early because they didn’t need me anymore. So then I was walking out and this guy was wearing pants and a blue shirt and he had a long, like, ponytail, long hair.” She recalled, clearly still shaken by the incident. “He had a baby in the stroller and then another guy was just standing, staring. But when I walked out he was like, ‘let me give you a ride home. Do you need a ride? Let me give you a ride home,” Norris explained.

Even after denying them, the men continued to press Norris.

“He said no, what do you mean? We’re obviously good guys. Like, I have a baby with me. There’s nothing wrong that’s going to happen,” said Norris. They continued to follow her home and have people sit outside her house
Even though these are just some local examples, anyone can be a victim. It’s known that kids who are homeless or runaways, LGBTQ+, African American or Latino, and youth interacting with the child welfare system are more susceptible to this type of exploitation because of their vulnerability, according wearethorn.org

Uncover KC, a local organization dedicated to community betterment, explains on their website that, “This midwest metropolis holds one of the highest rates of human trafficking prosecutions in the United States…due to the intersection of east-west and north-south interstates, the area is uniquely situated for access to larger cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver and others.”

While the location of Kansas City may make it an epicenter for trafficking, that doesn’t mean that being complicit is the only option.

“A basic education of awareness can equip ordinary people in all walks of life to recognize the signs of human trafficking and know what action to take. Inaction and willful ignorance allows these vicspread,” said KC Street Hope on their website.

KC Street Hope is an organization focused on stopping sex trafficking and bettering the lives of victims. Whether it be on an app or on a street corner, sex trafficking and the fear around it can be found all over Kansas City.
The Kansas City Missouri Police Department wants the citizens to feel safe though. They released a statement about a popular new app called “IRL– Let’s Hang” and it’s supposed link to sex trafficking. “We’ve gotten numerous calls about this. As with so many other things, just because you see it on social media doesn’t make it true. We’ve had no reports to substantiate the claim of sex trafficking being associated with this text message.” They said. “Our detectives have also looked into it. Its from an app that sends out messages to people. There is no indication the app is malicious.”

Kansas City is a safe place, if you’re aware of what is going on. Knowing how to protect yourself and what to do in a situation like exploitation or harassment is the key to staying safe and happy in Kansas City.
Torre Tipton, Park Hill’s social worker also gave some words of advice. “It’s not all bad. You know, I think you need to be aware of your surroundings and not be afraid to live your life.” She explained.
“Bad things happen all over the place so, I think being aware, paying attention, not looking at your phone as you’re walking down the street, you know that makes you a target for anything if you’re not paying attention.” Tipton said.
If someone is feeling unsafe, it is important for them to know that there are places they can go and people they can contact.

Tipton also said, “Tell an adult immediately, a trusted adult. Call the police, go into a store and say I need help.”
While giving advice about what to do in a bad situation, Tipton also said the QuikTrip is a ‘safe place’.
“Have you ever seen the signs that say ‘Safe Place’? So, typically thats for somebody who’s fleeing their home, and they need a place to go, but that could be for anything. So QuikTrips are really important to get the word out to people that, that is always a place you can go.” Tipton explained.

“And there’s tons of QuikTrips all over Kansas City. All you have to do is go right in and then say I need a safe place and they’ll take you to a back room and keep you safe until somebody shows up from synergy.” She said.
The people of Kansas City, and the United States as a whole, need to take the necessary steps to bring attention to what is happening, and also educate children and adults alike on how to spot the signs of a child being exploited and how to prevent it from happening, as well as how to stay safe.
Just like Tipton said, “ It’s important to continue to live and not be afraid to do that.” Kansas City isnt an unsafe place if you know how to be aware.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Call Center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have information about a missing child or suspected child sexual exploitation, report it to 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).