What you Need to Know About Sex Trafficking in Wichita

By February 8, 2016Blog

Wichita is ranked #…

Wichita is a hub…

Wichita is known for…

These are things we hear when it comes to sex trafficking in our city. Let’s talk about what we know to be true when it comes to this issue and what that means for Wichita.

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  1. We don’t know where Wichita (or any other city) ranks in terms of being the *BIGGEST SEX TRAFFICKING CITY IN THE WORLD!!* Yes, that is screaming. Yes it is over-sensationalized. Because that’s what we see. The reality is, statistics on this issue are very hard to nail down. This is an under-reported crime. Communities are still catching up to speed with training to identify victims and there are many different ways of gathering and reporting the statistics, none of which are centralized. Polaris does a great job with stats of calls into the national hotline and that does give a bit of a broad overview of levels of activity around the country but it is not a comprehensive database of cases worked. It is based on the public and service providers calling in to the national hotline. Think of it this way- Butterball has a turkey hotline at Thanksgiving for people to call in and ask questions. They can then report how many calls they got about roasting, frying or brining a turkey from different cities around the country. But, they can’t tell you how many people actually cooked turkeys. Some of those people that called may have been cooking enough turkeys for a small army and others may have chucked the whole idea and went out for Chinese food instead. But we could get a broad sense of what areas might be cooking the most turkeys based on the call volume for that area. Make sense?
  2. NHTRC-2014-HT-Cases-MapThe number of cases has jumped in Wichita in the last few years. This one is true. In 2014 we had 29 cases of trafficking that involved minors according to the Exploited and Missing Child Unit (EMCU) and in 2015 EMCU reported 65 cases. Why is this? Well, we don’t believe there is more activity. We believe our community is getting better at identifying victims- which is a good thing. Over the last several years Wichita has really stepped up to the plate with training for law enforcement, social workers, medical providers and the community. Students are being provided with more and more prevention education through programs like Tell Your Friends.  More identified victims means more survivors healing and more perpetrators being held accountable. Of course, we hope to see those numbers drop as we get better and better at fighting this issue- hopefully to zero in the future- but, for now we are encouraged by the progress being made.
  3. Wichita sits in the crosshairs because of the highways. Again, this one is true. But so do a lot of other cities. Major highways are a way for traffickers to move their victims around the country. So, naturally more access to highways may mean more activity in certain areas just based on proximity. But, we also know the internet reaches into every corner of our society. That means that vulnerable people are more accessible by traffickers than ever before through a “like”, a friend request or a private message. This issue touches every part of our country and it happens in every community.map-of-kansas-cities
  4. There is GREAT work being done in Wichita to fight trafficking. This is the absolute truth. The community is more aware of this issue than ever before and because of that, they are reaching out in more ways than ever before to support direct service providers. We have good laws around this issue in Kansas and they are evolving and growing as we learn more. We have a law enforcement community that is receiving training, training others and partnering with the community to link arms and fight this together. We have social service agencies that are looking at their services and how to expand and adapt them to survivors. Our medical providers are taking a proactive role in identifying victims in the hospital setting and providing proper care. Our schools are welcoming in prevention education for their students as well as their staff. Wichita has a phenomenal homeless youth drop in & Street Outreach Team at the OZ.  More resources are coming online for survivors in our community from the new Child Advocacy Center in Wichita opening later this summer to Clover House in Salina opening soon to provide residential care specifically addressing the needs of adolescent survivors. The new Wichita Children’s Home opens later this month as well. Good, good stuff happening!
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Contruction progress on the new Child Advocacy Center

Trafficking is a huge issue with lots of moving parts and puzzle pieces to figure out. We’re not there yet. There is a lot of work yet to be done, a lot of lessons yet to learn and a long road ahead. But when someone asks about what the trafficking issue means in Wichita, KS our hope is that you will focus on the efforts being made. Focus on the hard working people who are doing their best to give kids in our community a chance at a safe childhood. Focus on the strides made even in the last five years as we look back on where we’ve come from in terms of knowledge, resources and community partnerships. And then roll your sleeves up and figure out where you can help be part of the movement!