The efforts by high school and middle-school officials in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin, California and Florida come as experts say criminals have turned to classrooms and social media sites to recruit students into forced domestic sex and labor rings.
Asia Graves, 24, is a survivor of human trafficking. She works for Fair Girls, a non-profit that helps human trafficking victims.
Asia Graves looks straight ahead as she calmly recalls the night a man paid $200 on a Boston street to have sex with her.
She was 16, homeless, and desperate for food, shelter and stability. He was the first of dozens of men who would buy her thin cashew-colored body from a human trafficker who exploited her vulnerabilities and made her a prisoner for years.
“If we didn’t call him daddy, he would slap us, beat us, choke us,” said Graves, 24, of the man who organized the deals. “It’s about love and thinking you’re part of a family and a team. I couldn’t leave because I thought he would kill me.”
By day, she was a school girl who saw her family occasionally. At night, she became a slave to men who said they loved her and convinced her to trade her beauty for quick cash that they pocketed. Sold from Boston to Miami and back, Graves was one of thousands of young girls sexually exploited across the United States, often in plain sight.
A plague more commonly associated with other countries has been taking young victims in the United States, one by one. Though the scope of the problem remains uncertain — no national statistics for the number of U.S. victims exist — the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says at least 100,000 children across the country are trafficked each year.