Ways to identify a victim of sex trafficking - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Ways to identify a victim of sex trafficking

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KENNEWICK, WA - The signs of sex trafficking aren't always obvious.

"There's girls in our schools who are being trafficked, and they're going to school but may leave at lunchtime for a date that was set up for them," said Jodee Garretson, Executive Director of Support Advocacy Resource Center in Kennewick, "So it's really hard to identify because the parent might not even know that they're not where they're supposed to be because they are still in school."

Garretson says oftentimes it goes something like this: a young girl falls prey to an older boy who convinces her they're in love.

Except it's not love at all.

"What can happen instead is that they're being groomed instead...is that they're being set up to be trafficked by that individual and by the time they understand what's going on that they're really fearful and surprised about what's taking place," said Garretson.

Though the most common victim they see are teen girls...she says they've worked with kids not even old enough to go to school.

"We've had cases where little four, six-year-old girls are being trafficked by their moms for drug money or for rent. So we see that in our community too."

Though sex trafficking can be difficult to spot, she says there are red flags people can look out for.

"If you notice that your teenage child is coming home with her nails done or her hair done, or nice clothes, not necessarily nicer, but new items," Garretson said. "It's not uncommon for them to get the girls ready with the look they want them to have. "

But unfortunately, Garretson says as there are people who want to pay for sex, sex crimes and human trafficking will continue.

Of course it's not just women and girls who can fall prey. Garretson says her office works with male victims of sex trafficking as well.

If you or someone you know is being victimized, you can call 911 or the National Trafficking Resource Center 24-hour hotline at 888-373-7888.

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