sextraffickingWhen most Americans think of human trafficking, they imagine girls for sale in third world countries. While this is true, and still horrific, many Americans fail to realize the epidemic of sex slavery taking place right here at home.

The Polaris Project  is one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the US.  Last year the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, operated by Polaris, reported 3,598 sex trafficking cases inside the United States.

According to a CNN  and a study by the Urban Institute, some traffickers make more than $32,000 a week.

Often times, sex traffickers lure vulnerable women and sometimes even children into their deceitful web of corruption, crime, cruelty, control, and coercion.

The victims are manipulated with false love and promises of a “better life” and are often in too deep before they realize what’s happening. By then, it’s often too late.

In fact, just last month, the United States Department of Justice released the following indictment regarding trafficked children in a press release. Below is a brief summary.

In El Paso, a federal grand jury has charged a 31-year-old Artesia, NM, man with sex trafficking of children.

The federal indictment, returned on September 9, 2015, charges Vernon Dimayuga (aka “Vito”) with three counts of Sex Trafficking of Children.  According to the indictment filed in this case, beginning in May 2011 through May 2012, Dimayuga recruited three children under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sex acts.

Federal authorities arrested Dimayuga in Las Cruces, NM, on Friday.

“The arrest of Mr. Dimayuga for sex trafficking of minors demonstrates that the FBI and our partners in the Department of Homeland Security, El Paso Police Department, and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office will investigate all instances where children in our community are being harmed or exploited,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist, El Paso Division.

“HSI special agents are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those responsible for such heinous acts are justly prosecuted,” Waldemar Rodriguez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI El Paso, said.

Upon conviction, the defendant faces between ten years and life in federal prison.

This case was the result of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations as part of the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam).  Assistant United States Attorney Rifian Newaz is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

There are often signs someone is being trafficked in your community that are often overlooked. Polaris lists several red flags to look for such as poor living conditions, mental health or abnormal behavior.

As heartbreaking and hopeless as this situation may seem, Americans are banning together to fight back.

The Muse listed 7 ways to join in the fight against human trafficking such as lobbying local policymakers, starting a local community awareness group, working or volunteering at an anti-trafficking organization, or hosting an event to raise awareness.

The United State Department of State even lists tips for businesses such as providing internships to trafficking survivors.