WASHINGTON – The problem of sex trafficking is a global epidemic that’s become a major problem in the D.C. area.
The FBI has named the area as one of 14 major sex trafficking centers in the U.S. Dr. Courtney Gaskins, a member of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, says Northern Virginia is a hotbed of trafficking.
“We’ve had girls as young as 12 in terms of being recruited into trafficking,” says Gaskins who also works oversees a program that rescues exploited teens called “Girls on a Journey,” at Joe Gibbs’s Youth For Tomorrow facility.
“We haven’t worked with really many young boys. I hear that there are boys that are being victims of this as well.”
She says gangs are often involved in human trafficking. The problem isn’t only in the D.C. area.
“It’s increasing along the I-95 corridor,” she says. “I’ve talked to some folks in Richmond they’re having this issue as well, as well in the Virginia Beach area.”
However, she says Virginia law enforcement is prosecuting these criminals to the fullest extent of the law – giving sentences of 30 years to life where five year sentences used to be the norm.
Dr. Gaskins now says there is a support system for the young people who are sold in sex slavery.
“They’re making themselves available to provide mental health services, as well as services not just for domestic populations but for international populations that are victims of human sex trafficking,” says Gaskins.