A panel at Antioch Church in Overland Park met Sunday to discuss how to combat sex trafficking.
“It’s happening at hotels in Olathe. It's happening at hotels in Lenexa. It’s happening at hotels in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas and every area in between,” said September Trible, executive director of Restoration House of Greater Kansas City. Restoration House is a residential treatment program for sex trafficking victims.
Results from a 2013 university study about online sex customers are still being used to draw awareness to an often unseen problem in the metro.
The study “hoped to shed light on [the] rapidly growing and complex market for commercial sex and its implications both for victims and law enforcement.”
An estimated 106,624 Kansas City area men responded to online sex ads during the two-week study period, according to the study’s findings.
The study also found almost 15 percent of men in Kansas City responded to sex ads online. This finding ranked the metro area in second place out of the 15 cities that participated in the study.
To learn more about the study, click here.
"The biggest brothel in the world is right there available on a cell phone in the palm of your hand," said Trible. "The reality is that you can call and order a sex act the same way you would order a pizza. You can choose ethnicity, hair color and age build. It's just really big business."
Parks, truck stops and hotels are also primary places for trafficking to occur.
AwareKC Director Russ Tuttle described a Kansas City park encounter when a police officer discovered a man having sex with a minor who met he met on the dating app Tinder. AwareKC is a Christian group that works to educate people about sex trafficking.
"Because of trafficking training, the officer realized this is so much more than that,” said Tuttle. “This is someone testing merchandise to sell this poor child because demand is high in the Kansas City area. We need better men and good men to be better."
Law enforcement on the panel said it's extremely difficult to get trafficking victims to come forward since many are trained by their pimps on what to say if they are caught. Some don't even know they are victims.
“[Human trafficking victims] may have rings from him (their pimps), sometimes (they are) even married to their pimps,” said Trible.
Law enforcement is asking for the public’s help in identifying potential victims.
Tips to help identify a potential victim from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Accompanied by a controlling person or boss; not speaking on own behalf
Lack of control over personal schedule, money, ID, travel documents.
Transported to or from work; lives and works in the same place
Debt owed to employer/crew leader; inability to leave job
Bruises, depression, fear, overly submissive
For more information, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
Editor’s Note: The copy has been updated to reflect the findings of the 2013 study by Arizona State University in depth, noting 15 cities were took part in the study, the reference to online sex customers and advertising on the web. The headline has been edited for clarity.
Brian Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.