In late June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas charged Robert Shiflet with three counts of transporting a minor across state lines to engage in illegal sexual activity and one count of coercing a minor to cross a state line to engage in sexual activity.
According to the indictment, Shiflet transported two different children from Texas to Arkansas for trafficking purposes in 1997 and 2001. Additionally, Shiflet transported a third child across state lines for illegal sexual activity in 2002. During this time, he was working as a youth pastor in Little Rock.
Child Sex Trafficking Victims
While there is no standard profile for victims of sex trafficking, many risk factors are associated with who is targeted.
Reports indicate traffickers most often target children and youths with an existing history of sexual abuse, dating violence, low self-esteem, and minimal social support. Runaway and homeless youths are also at particularly high risk for becoming victims.
According to Darkness to Light, an organization that works to prevent childhood sexual abuse, between 33 and 90 percent of sex trafficking victims have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence.
Marginalized Groups Are Often Disproportionately Targeted
LGBTQ youths are up to five times more likely than heterosexual youths to be victims of trafficking due to the increased feelings of rejection and alienation they experience.
Additionally, those in Native American, Black American, and Hispanic American communities are also at a higher risk of becoming child sex trafficking victims.
While Native Americans make up only 11% percent of the New Mexico population, they account for over 25% of human trafficking victims due to the lack of infrastructure to deal with trafficking cases on Native American reservations or in states with significant Native American populations.
While Black American youth account for over 40% of all commercial sex act arrests of minors, Hispanic youth account for nearly 20%, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
How to Protect Yourself Against Sex Trafficking
In today’s largely digital world, much of child sex trafficking actually begins online. Many traffickers will use websites with chat and messaging features, such as Snapchat or Instagram, as well as online gaming platforms as a means to prey on young people and lure them into meeting in person.
According to a recent investigation by The New York Times, in 2018 tech companies received 18.4 million reports of child sexual abuse imagery, including more than 45 million online photos and videos.
Because of the susceptibility of many children and youths, the U.S. Department of State and leading child experts recommend the following methods to protect against sex trafficking:
Increasing general knowledge and awareness of child sex trafficking can help identify potential victims and link them to professional advocates.
Know the Signs
Recognizing the warning signs of child sex trafficking helps identify potential victims. Common red flags include:
Unexplained school absences
The presence of multiple cell phones, burner phones, and/or erased call logs
Multiple fake identification cards (IDs)
Appearing malnourished, hungry, or dressed inappropriately for weather conditions
Bruises or other signs of physical trauma
Signs of drug addiction
The presence of a noticeably older, controlling or abusive “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
Suspicions of child sex trafficking should always be reported to The National Human Trafficking Hotline. Being watchful and aware of your surroundings can help children in distress.
By asking the child if they need help or if someone has hurt them, you can help disrupt the situation, alert authorities, and/or help get them to safety.
Texas Institutional Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Institutional sexual abuse and sex trafficking have incredibly damaging effects on victims. No child should be taken advantage of by a youth pastor, teacher, or other person of authority.
Victims don’t have to face the aftermath alone if the unexpected happens. At Raizner Law, our attorneys are dedicated to seeking justice for abuse survivors. If you were the victim of child abuse or sexual abuse, we can help.