“No one was looking for me other than my pimp.” – Survivor

In 2014, 1 out of every 6 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was likely a child sex trafficking victim.

One out of every six.                                                            

And 68 percent were in the care of child welfare when they went missing.

Know the risks

In most cases, child sex trafficking does not happen overnight. Research has documented social, emotional and physical vulnerabilities that increase a child’s risk of being targeted.

"If we intend to prevent child sex trafficking, we must drastically and urgently shift the way we view and respond to teens who have run away."

Traffickers often use predictable grooming and recruiting methods through their social networking profiles to lure and trap teens. Traffickers take their time building trust with potential victims. This provides parents, guardians, law enforcement and concerned adults with a myriad of warning signs and a window of opportunity to disrupt their efforts.

One of the most documented red flags is a teen who has run away, especially those who repeatedly run away. With every run, a teen’s safety net begins to unravel, and quickly they have no choice but to rely on people who often do not have their best interest in mind.

Stepping in

When a teen runs away, the response should be immediate and urgent. Why? More than 80 percent of missing child cases taken by NCMEC in 2014 were endangered runaways. Many of these teens are being sold for sex on classified websites. Sadly, runaways are often times invisible to everyone but the trafficker.

If we recognized the life-threatening endangerments missing children face on the street, we would be compelled to sound the alarm and turn up our response every time a teen goes missing. If we intend to prevent child sex trafficking, we must drastically and urgently shift the way we view and respond to teens who have run away.

If traffickers are the only ones strategically looking for missing children, then they will continue to shatter dreams and destroy lives while making an incredible profit. That changes today. Report every child, every time they go missing or run away. First to law enforcement, then to NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).