Human Sex Trafficking on the rise in Onondaga County

Human Sex Trafficking on the rise in Onondaga County (Sarahbeth Ackerman)

Child sex trafficking is a growing problem in Onondaga County. Recently, the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center is conducting more training sessions on how to identify possible victims of trafficking. Normally, law enforcement organizations and agencies that deal with children are given the training, but now it's expanding into schools.

Erin Yeager with the McMahon Ryan Child Advocacy Center says human sex trafficking is on the rise in Onondaga County, but unfortunately it's also something that's been around for a while.

"We've really seen across the board. Here in Onondaga County, I can tell you I have cases that are in the city and I've got cases that are in very distant suburbs of the city," says Yeager.

Yeager says it's crucial to break the stereotype of what we think human sex trafficking is. The basic definition is exchanging sex for something with value; that could be anything from clothing to a place to stay.

The term is known as 'survival sex' where young adults trade their body to meet their basic needs.

"I think unfortunately, these youth don't realize the choice that they're making. Or, it might be the best choice they have at the time which makes it all the more easier for that exploiter to pull them into that lifestyle," says Yeager.

To take a preventive approach, McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center is holding seminars to make sure people in our community know what's happening. They plan on training teachers and staff in the Syracuse City School District on who to call when there's an issue and what they should to be looking for.

"If that awareness is there, we have the potential to catch and hopefully prevent more of this from happening," says Yeager.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center more than 4,600 cases of sex trafficking were reported since 2007 in New York State. Last year alone, there were 280 reported cases.

If you suspect that a child is being abused, it's recommended to call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720.

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