Amanda Swanson, Trafficking Intervention Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Justice, shares with us her nine years of experience working with and for victims of human trafficking. She currently chairs the Attorney General's Trafficking Intervention Advisory Committee, working with stakeholders around Oregon on addressing the state's response. We spoke with her to learn more about her work and the changing demographic of trafficking victims in Oregon.
NEST: What is Oregon's current anti-human trafficking focus?
Our main focus right now is the trafficking of children and youth. Before, we were identifying children as young as 15, but now we are starting to identify them around 13 or 14-years-old. We are seeing perpetrators start initiating children younger and younger, and we also know that with gang members, they are training them younger and younger, so our exploiters are becoming minors as well.
How is digital technology facilitating the sex trafficking of children?
It is a digital age and children are super savvy and smart. Most adults want their teenagers or their children to teach them how to use the new apps, and so keeping ahead of the game is something that is a constant battle. I think the digital age is definitely playing havoc with this issue - making it harder to get people to identify victims and making it a lot more profitable. It was hard to identify before and now it's almost impossible.
What can young people do to help prevent sexual exploitation?
The only ways we are going to prevent sexual exploitation is with this new generation coming up. So, that is calling up this generation to a higher standard of how we treat each other. It's calling up boys to hold their peers accountable for how they treat women, and boys in general. Young people have a huge battle to fight and we are just now clearing out the brush. We need to shine light on sexual exploitation, bring about awareness, and educate youth on prevention.