FLINT – It’s a crime that’s happening underground in Flint, and many community advocates say enough isn’t being done to stop it: child sex trafficking.
“We absolutely know that it is happening here,” said Christina Delikta, a sexual assault crisis counselor at the Young Women’s Christian Association.
Delikta says the local Flint community must step up, saying there aren’t any specialized services in Genesee County that are catered towards helping child sex trafficking victims.
These victims, she says, are suffering in more ways than one.
“Nightmares, flashbacks, sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder, all those things that kind of come along with trauma,” she said.
At least 300,000 American children are trafficked each year, but there aren’t any specific statistics for areas in Michigan, including Flint, because the crime is so hard to track.
But Special Agent Jeff Eberle, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, says criminals will do anything necessary to make a quick buck.
“There’s a certain class of individuals out there, a criminal class in our society, that will do whatever to whomever they can if it means they can make money off of it,” Eberle said.
Eberle says the stories of child victims are often the same.
“None of them ever as small children dream to grow up to be a teenage prostitute,” Eberle said. “Often times, there has been physical or emotional abuse in whatever sort of home life they had, coupled then with substance abuse.”
But the criminals – people who set out to buy sex from children in our community – aren’t the same at all.
“Sometimes you wish that there were some kind of characteristic that you could look and say ‘aha, that’s somebody who is going to want to be inclined to exploit a child’ but it really isn’t the case,” Eberle said.
Right now, the FBI agents in Detroit are partnering with local law enforcement and volunteers in Flint, and as they study the crime, Eberle said it’s crucial to be aware.
“If we see something that just doesn’t look right, make the hairs on the back on your neck stand up, call attention to it, talk to a police officer,” he said.