Sharon Cooper, M.D., CEO, Developmental & Forensic Pediatrics: It took a long time for us to understand that actually these were exploited youth—typically, very vulnerable youth who have been in foster care, or homeless or runaway youth. And once we began to understand how easily they could be groomed and recruited by offenders, we then began to recognize that these were children who were being exploited.
Katherine Kaufka Walts, Director, Center for the Human Rights of Children, Loyola University Chicago: Children who have been trafficked—both for actually sex and labor trafficking—are more vulnerable for a variety of reasons. Obviously their age, their developmental capacity. They’re more easily manipulated, and traffickers know that.
Linda, Survivor Advocate: I was born in Ecuador. When I was 16, my step-sisters told my dad that it would be a good idea if I will come here. They say, "She could help with one baby while I work, and then she will go to school in the afternoon." I never end up going to school. I was home 24 hours with the baby, and then, little by little, she started telling me to cook, to clean. I wasn’t getting paid. I was monitored, everything that I did. I felt trapped without, like, no exit. They made me feel that they were doing something great by giving me food and giving me a place to live, and the way that I had to pay them back is doing everything for them.
Katherine Kaufka Walts: There are professionals that are already working in the field with trafficking victims—child welfare agencies, child protection workers, juvenile justice professionals, including attorneys, judges, guardian ad litems, court-appointed special attorneys, case managers, social workers or foster care systems, school counselors. Some victims of trafficking are going to school. In fact, their traffickers pick them up at the end of the day.