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Human Sex Trafficking: An Underground Network on U.S. Soil

"It isn't just in some far off place or some big city, it is all over," said Congressman Wolf.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - When people think of human sex trafficking, many assume that these crimes happen overseas, in developing countries with poor, uneducated women as the victims.

But on Wednesday, at Congressman Frank Wolf’s (R ) - Virginia, hearing on sex trafficking, all the witnesses including Cindy McCain, wife of Senator John McCain (R) -Arizona, said that it's happening on American soil.

"It isn't just in some far off place or some big city, it is all over," said Congressman Wolf.

"I learned like everybody else has in this room. I learned the hard way. I saw it and I didn't recognize it," said McCain.

They, and other law enforcement officials say sex trafficking is happening right here in the United States.

"Some of the common misconceptions is that it's happening to foreign nationals. That it's people from other countries being brought to the United States,” said Detective William Woolf of the Fairfax County Police Department. “That is absolutely not true. The majority of the victims that we have are U.S. citizens and they're being trafficked in Northern Virginia."

“It's in Tyson’s Corner. It's in Annandale," said Congressman Wolf.

Police say more and more victims are from middle or upper class families.

"We've had victims who's parents make more than a million dollars a year, victims who's parents are very well connected. Really, money does not protect our children from being potential victims," said Detective Woolf.

With the popularity of social media, sex traffickers are turning to sites like Facebook to target girls whose posts suggests things like low self esteem or a bad relationship with their parents. They say this is one of the main ways that traffickers are finding victims in middle and upper class families.

Northern Virginia law enforcement has been leading the way in policing human trafficking for the last few years, and while Congressman Wolf applauds them - he says it's not enough.

"I think that we're ahead of the game here, and yet we're not doing the greatest job. Don't think that we've resolved it,” said Congressman Wolf.

"Make sure that these traffickers understand that this is serious. We're sending them to jail for a very long time, and they're not wanted here," said McCain.

Witness at the hearing included Cindy McCain, Detective William Woolf, Stephanie Vu and John Ryan. Vu is a sex-trafficking survivor after being victimized when she was only 12-years-old. Ryan is the President and Chief Executive Officer for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Witnesses that testified say the first thing someone can do is to educate themselves about sex trafficking. Police encourage a healthy interest in your child's friends. They say asking questions about your child's Facebook friends is a great way to stop sex trafficking before it starts.


For more information on human trafficking, click on the links below:

http://justaskva.org/

http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/the-nhtrc/overview

http://www.missingkids.com/Resources

http://wolf.house.gov/issues/human-trafficking#.Uw6FQPldXF4

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