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Sexual Assault Awareness month highlights state's youth sex trafficking problem

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Sexual assault – and sex trafficking – are problems nationwide, including in Delaware.

Youth – and especially minority youth – are at a higher-risk of being victimized and trafficked, even by family members.

 

Nancy McGee coordinates the Sexual Assault Network of Delaware.

 

But before that, she worked for Delaware’s Division of Family Services for 15 years. She wishes she knew then what she knows now.

 

“There were families that I thought – something’s wrong, something’s wrong – something’s wrong and I had no idea. I just knew something was wrong," McGee said. "Now I look back on it and I can see those kids’ faces and I go, I know exactly what was going on in that family.”

 

She says along with more obvious signs of sexual abuse and trafficking like bruises and unusual tattoos, – a warning sign she often missed involved parents or guardians unusually isolating their kids.

 

“Even – certainly not as toddlers, but I’m talking about as kids get older, they go to a friend’s house or they go to a birthday party or they get – that didn’t happen for some of these kids," McGee said.

 

And while McGee says sex trafficking is more common among kids in foster care, it can happen to any child.

 

And it’s happening in Delaware – McGee says after the group’s conference last November, a First State teacher recognized something she’d been seeing in one of her students.

 

“Because she sat there through the whole day saying, oh my gosh that’s this kid, this kid, this kid – she then could report it," McGee said. "And actually the FBI came and showed up at her school to say, we wanted to say thank you, thanks for being the eyes for that kid.”

 

McGee says traffickers sometimes recruit kids via the internet.

 

“You know, the 15-year-old kid who goes, I hate my mom," McGee said. "And of course they do it online, because that’s where kids talk now. So the ability to say that and somebody trolls through and says, hey – I can help you address that, I can help you deal with that. You don’t have to go through that, I offer you a better life than that.”

 

And she says once they’re hooked on drugs – or controlled by the trafficker through financial or other means – it’s extremely difficult for them to leave.

 

In 2015, Delaware began observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. That year, 137 rapes were reported to law enforcement.

 

Those who suspect sexual abuse are urged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline, at 888-373-7888.

 

In Delaware, ContactLifeline also offers sexual assault counseling services for individuals, families, as well as group therapy sessions for survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones.

 
 

 

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