City Profile: Human Trafficking in Washington, D.C

Human Trafficking Hits the News

A local news outlet ran a headline December 2022, and caused an immediate stir. “2 women face sex trafficking charges in Montgomery [County]”, it blared. Montgomery County was known more for being a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. than home to sex traffickers. That headline was followed in January by another report: “Woman accusing 4 former Fairfax Co. cops of aiding sex trafficking testifies.” Fairfax County is also a D.C. suburb, located in Northern Virginia. In nearby Loudoun County, a former sheriff’s deputy was convicted of soliciting sex from a minor. Suddenly, locals were wondering what they were missing, and how big a problem human trafficking actually was in their area. 

Human Trafficking in DC

 The answers were disturbing. A report released by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, analyzing data from calls 2007 – 2016, found that Washington, D.C. ranked fourth on the list of cities with most cases opened.

Ongoing federal and local investigations reveal the extent of D.C.’s trafficking problem. The DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council reported in 2021 that 131 victims of human trafficking had been identified. 103 were successfully identified; 98 were victims of sex trafficking. 36 were minors. 

Action Steps

It can be disturbing to realize that human trafficking occurs everywhere, including the United States’ capital city. That said, there are actions concerned citizens can take.

Action: Be an involved adult

Talk to your child. Ask them questions, and listen to the answers. Let them know they can trust you. 

When you ask questions, try to keep them open-ended. Encourage discussion! Accept they may think differently than you do, and be curious about why they have drawn the conclusion they did. 

Action: educate your child about grooming behavior, and what that looks like. Talk about how groomers will ask them to keep secrets, make them feel guilty for ‘betraying’ the groomer, give extravagant gifts, or show them material that may make your child feel uncomfortable or upset. Help them understand that predators can and will use the internet to find potential victims, and that it is okay to talk to you if they’re worried.

Action: consider helping your child find age-appropriate resources to educate themselves on, and help them educate their friends. Having your child do the work themselves can help foster a sense of ownership, and encourage them to buy in! Afterwards, have an age-appropriate discussion about what they have learned and what questions they have. 

Possible resources include the Polaris Project, RAINN, Libertas Home

Action: get involved!

Donate or volunteer with a local organization that fights human trafficking, like Libertas Home. Challenge your child to get involved! Can they present on safety tips at school, or organize a fundraiser to support a local campaign? Work together to brainstorm actionable ideas they can use to help victims, and educate others on safety.

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Clara Martin