Last Updated on May 26, 2016 by cassnetwork
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today joined U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Josh Minkler and other members of the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans (IPATH) Task Force to launch a public awareness effort to help combat domestic sex trafficking of minors.
The Indiana’s Not Buying It awareness effort coincides with the upcoming Indianapolis 500, which will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city during Memorial Day weekend, and which – like other large sporting events – can also attract sex trafficking.
The Not Buying It effort aims to refute myths about the commercial sex industry and reduce the demand for commercial sex that fuels trafficking. Some of the messages include “She looked 18; She’s Not” and “Everyone Says It’s a Victimless Crime; It’s Not.”
In the lead up to the 500, the Not Buying It message is being publicized on three billboards in Speedway, as well as on 23 IndyGo buses. The campaign will run through the end of the month. IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter is featured in the Not Buying It video PSA, which can be viewed at www.INNotBuyingIt.com.
“Indiana’s Not Buying It shares the message that commercial sex is not harmless; it is serious, dangerous and leads to the trafficking of minors,” Zoeller said. “I want all men to step up and realize this behavior is not OK, and we won’t tolerate it in the Hoosier State.”
The average age of someone first recruited into the sex industry is 12 to 14, and 83% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are U.S. citizens.
Zoeller is co-chair of IPATH alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Indiana. IPATH is made up of 60 member organizations.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery and preys on the most vulnerable in our society,” U.S. Attorney Minkler said. “Sexually exploiting children for profit is not just morally wrong, it is illegal and those who engage in it will be identified, investigated, prosecuted, and sentenced to decades in federal prison.”
The AG’s Office originally launched the Not Buying It effort before the 2015 NCAA Final Four championship held in Indianapolis. The AG’s Office tracked Backpage.com ads offering “escort services” in the Indianapolis area during Final Four weekend and found a spike of more than 100 ads per day. There were 18 commercial sex-related arrests during the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis.
“Human trafficking is an unfortunate reality in our community that we take seriously and prosecute vigorously. Our office has a team dedicated to prosecuting this crime and assisting the young victims involved to escape their exploitation,” Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said. “Many of these victims are young women from here in Indianapolis, and it is our responsibility as a community to stand up and protect them.”
In addition to the billboard campaign, the AG’s Office and IPATH volunteers have been distributing Not Buying It flyers, victim recovery posters and “red flags” fact sheets to 150 businesses in and around the city, including 49 hotels, ahead of race weekend.
Kenneth Allen, program manager of the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program with Indiana Youth Services Association (IYSA), also urged people to be vigilant if they see a child who may be at risk.
IYSA recently received funding from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and created the Indiana Trafficking Victim Assistance Program to identify and provide comprehensive services to youth (21 and under) victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation. The program serves the entire state by creating five regional coalitions, engaging community partners to raise awareness and increasing identification of exploited youth, and establishing a statewide network of trained service providers ready to respond.
The program staff and service partners have served over 90 young people since October 2015. Training requests, resources, and additional information can be found on the IYSA website at www.indysb.org.
This year, Zoeller advocated for the passage of Senate Enrolled Act 14, which increased criminal penalties for some of the worst crimes against children, including possession of child pornography and child exploitation.
Human trafficking tips can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at: 888-3737-888 (text BeFree to 233733). If it is an emergency, call 911. If a child may be in danger, call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-800-5556.