HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new study reveals child sex trafficking is more widespread in Hawaii than many believed.
Law enforcement officials have long described it as a heinous crime hiding in plain sight that targets Hawaii’s most vulnerable population: our keiki.
It’s important to first understand that child sex trafficking does not involve transporting victims across boundaries or borders.
Trafficking can occur within one state, island, or neighborhood. It happens whenever an adult takes advantage of a juvenile through force, fraud or coercion to compel that child to engage in sex for profit.
To conduct the study, Child and Family Service administered a survey to 363 participants in their programs.
Based on those surveys, Arizona State University researchers found nearly 27% reported being victims of sex trafficking.
Of those identified as survivors, about a quarter of them said they were children when it happened for the first time, and the first person who preyed on them was a family member — either a parent, guardian, sibling, grandfather, or uncle.
The study determined that of the participants who said they were sex trafficked as a child, the average age is just under 12 years old. More than 75% of all sex trafficking victims reported being homeless, and 64% of survivors identified as being part Native Hawaiian.
“The data confirms what our community providers have instinctively known — this is a very real problem,” said Karen Tan, president and chief executive officer of Child and Family Service.
“We are engaging with all the necessary agencies and organizations to collectively address this problem. This study identifies the volume of sex trafficking in our most vulnerable populations and demonstrates the need to respond to this issue immediately and provide much-needed support to survivors.”
Officials say the study has proved there are serious gaps in the ability to identify and prevent sex trafficking crimes in our community, and more collaboration between law enforcement, state service providers and volunteer organizations needs to be done to share data and support survivors.
Experts say the truth is trafficking is not always easily identified — its signs can be subtle, and picking out a predator can be even more difficult.
Officials say traffickers prey on children who are looking for love and protection, and brainwash them into believing that’s what they’re providing — even as they’re selling their bodies in exchange for cash, food, clothes or a place to stay.
If you are a victim of or suspect any sex trafficking activity, call 911 immediately.
To report child trafficking, call the Child Welfare Services’ child trafficking hotline.
On Oahu, that number is (808) 832-1999 or 1-888-398-1188 for the neighbor islands.
If you’re worried someone is at risk and aren’t sure how to approach the situation, you can contact your county police department — anonymously or in person — or you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.
Click here for more information on CFS’ study and resources available to help.
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line: (866) 347-2423 (24/7)
- National Human Trafficking Hotline: (888) 373-7888. Anti-Trafficking Hotline Advocates are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. You can also text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733 or chat with someone at the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
- Report missing children or child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) or through their Cybertipline.