Dawn Hawkins is the executive director of Morality in Media, the leading national organization opposing pornography and indecency through public education and application of the law.
Dawn defined sex trafficking as an activity that involves people who have been forced or coerced into performing a sex act in exchange for something else. However, in the end it's not the victim who receives the money, housing or food. Instead, under sex trafficking, someone takes that away from them. The victim, in essence, is a slave.
Sex trafficking has a broader victim base than you might think. Dawn spoke with a young woman from an upper middle class family who was a track star at the University of Maryland. She became a sex trafficking victim and is just one example proving that this kind of activity isn't limited to poor, runaway girls.
Another misconception is that this isn't happening in the U.S. but only overseas. Dawn noted that between 100,000 and 400,000 American children are trafficked every year.
Children can be drawn into this because they may have low self esteem. This can make them easy prey for a pimp who may befriend them and attempt to gain their trust. A girl can become a victim if she sends a picture of herself (sexting) to someone and is then told that if she doesn't comply with regard to what is demanded of her, the picture or pictures will be shared.
Dawn indicated that pornography is increasing the pace and creating the sexual template for sex trafficking. The pattern works like this: The porn user looks for increasingly harder material because their brain changes over time. Eventually they seek to act out what they see in pornography. In order to satisfy these desires they end up getting involved with prostituted or trafficked women or children.
Also discussed was Morality in Media's “dirty dozen” list and how sex trafficking occurs through social media.