Hawaii advocates raise alarms about increase in predators targeting children online

Experts say since the pandemic onset, there's been a near 20% uptick in families seeking help for sex abuse

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii families seeking help for sex abuse has increased since the pandemic started by about 20%, Child and Family Service tells Hawaii News Now.

Amanda Pump, the director of Oahu Programs at Child and Family Service, said with families juggling work from home obligations and helping their kids with distance learning, supervision on social media platforms has decreased. And that’s made it easier for predators to get into homes.

“We know children are now social distancing and relying on technology to maintain social connections,” said Pump. “This puts them at higher risk of exposure to online predators.”

City Prosecutor Steve Alm said trafficking in schools was also brought to his attention.

“Sometimes boys are paid to invite high school girls to come to a party and the pimp is there, just acting like an older guy who pays attention to the teenage girl,” said Alm. “And they know who to look for, who’s vulnerable and they’ll come across as just an older boyfriend first.”

Previous administrations targeted massage parlors also referred to as massage brothels.

Alm, a former judge, is taking a different approach to combating the problem.

He’s focused on looking for teenagers coerced into sex trafficking.

“I’ve heard of cases where there’s a gambling debt and the family will pay the gambling debt by giving them their daughter for the week,” said Alm.

He’s warning all teenagers to be cautious.

“If they give them positive strokes, if they give them attention, buy them things, you know, teenage girls and boys need to be cautious whenever they’re approached with somebody like that and realize they may well be intending to do you harm,” said Alm.

Child and Family Service advises parents to educate their children about the dangers of the internet and monitor their children throughout the day by checking in with them.

If you need help, reach out to Child and Family Service at 808-680-1546 or if you have any concerns with anyone being trafficked, call the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services Child Trafficking (Child Welfare Services) Hotline at (808) 832-1999 (Oahu) or 1-888-398-1188 (Neighbor Islands).

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