By Jennifer Orozco
Maybe Rachel (a pseudonym) is a runaway, a girl that slipped through
the cracks in the foster care system, or she may have escaped her home
for one reason or another. Perhaps her home life is unbearable due to
domestic violence, drug use or sexual abuse she’s had to endure.
Possibly she’s a girl struggling with identity and self-esteem.
He met her at the bus station, and he was charming. He impresses her
with the car he drives and the money he has. He offers her a place to
live and promises to take care of her. She begins to trust him and
eventually falls for him. She thinks she’s found “the one.” He is a
Then a switch goes off. He turns on her. All of that “love” he
provided was just a form of manipulation. Alcohol, drugs and beatings
were a few of the tools he used to force her into prostitution. He set
her “quota” at $300 a night. The only way to reach this quota is for
her to endure 10 to 30 sexual encounters a night. If the quota isn’t
met, she will be beaten severely and “made an example” for his other
She is only 13.
Las Vegas is dubbed the “Entertainment Capital of the World.”
Thousands of visitors and tourists roam the Las Vegas Strip every
weekend. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority contends that
over 41 million visited the Las Vegas area in 2012, and the LVCVA
states that Las Vegas is ranked No. 8 in “Most Favorite Cities
Why is Las Vegas so popular? Is it because of its gorgeous desert
landscape or 110 degree weather in the summer? No. It’s because it is
“Sin City.” That’s right! Las Vegas is a city where practically all
“sin” is fair game and is even glamorized: from gambling, to drinking
alcohol and partying, to the endless supply of sex appeal Las Vegas
Take a walk down Las Vegas Boulevard and you’ll see sex promoted
freely. From vendors throwing ads at pedestrians to provocatively
dressed women on mobile billboards, you can’t escape it; it’s all
If you cruise down certain Las Vegas streets, you’ll even find
prostitutes on the prowl for johns. For many of these women, sex is
part of the allure of this city. But away from the bright lights and
openness of the Strip and downtown streets, there are places in
residential areas where women and oftentimes children are smuggled and
kept as sex slaves.
Human trafficking for sex is a disgusting and vicious crime that is
usually kept under the public’s radar. It’s essentially a modern-day
form of slavery. It occurs when people are pushed into the sex trade
through “force, fraud or coercion” as defined by law — all for someone
else’s financial gain.
Human trafficking for sexual purposes is a $32 billion industry
worldwide, and Southern Nevada is one of the places it thrives. A 2012
documentary “Surviving Sin City” (posted on Facebook by an activist
organization) estimates that between 5,000 and 10,000 girls or women
are prostituted on any given convention weekend in Las Vegas. There
were over 21,000 conventions held in 2012, according to the LVCVA.
The advocates in the documentary explain that the “recruiting” of
runaway or so-called throw-away children for sexual exploitation is
done on the street, at schools, in malls, online through Twitter and
Facebook and other social media sites, and even takes place outside of
juvenile detention centers. Traffickers are considered “experts” in
their ability to evaluate the weaknesses of a vulnerable child, and it
takes only a matter of minutes to lure their victims. Las Vegas has
the fifth largest school district in the country, which provides
predators with a large pool of potential victims for their trafficking
Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto reports on the state
website that 107 child sex trafficking victims were recovered by law
enforcement in 2012. That number reportedly increased to 148 in 2013.
Sadly, many cases go unreported, leaving these victims voiceless.
Imagine the fear and hopelessness suffered by the children trapped in
this horror. Who would’ve imagined this was happening under our noses,
behind the glistening lights of the Las Vegas Strip?
So what can we do about this? Through the works of some amazing
organizations throughout the Las Vegas valley the fight against sex
trafficking is making tremendous strides, but we need everyone in the
community to be involved.
If you suspect a child or adult is an abuse victim, call The National
Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. This is a
national, toll-free hotline, available 24 hours a day to answer calls
and texts from anywhere in the country.
Rachel could be your daughter, niece or next door neighbor. Please
don’t turn a blind eye to a child in need.
Jennifer Orozco is a Southern Nevada-based writer and a University of
Southern California student in the master’s social work program.