REYNOLDSVILLE — Passages offered local anecdotes for the community during a human trafficking seminar held at the Reynoldsville Fire Hall.
Robin McMillen, a legal advocate with Passages, gave a presentation to inform the community about the dangers of human trafficking near the Reynoldsville area. Many people have the misconception that human trafficking is only people being taken from dark alleys in cities, but McMillen said this is not the case.
McMillen showed local headlines from the previous year about cases of men coming into the Brookville area to participate in human trafficking.
“We actually had men coming into the Brookville area to have sex with underage girls. (A)n operation conducted by the Brookville Police department brought the issue to light. One of the men actually came with the intention to buy a girl and take her back to his county to start his own business,” McMillen said.
Human trafficking can happen in a rural area just as easily, and victims can be trafficked by their own family members. The most at risk group to be trafficked or taken are runaways and “throwaways.” These are children who have run from home for some reason, or been kicked out of their home.
The average age when someone enters the sex trade is between 12 and 14 years old, and the younger they are the more they’re worth, McMillen said, adding that no child will say they want to be a prostitute when they grow up, and there is no such thing as a child prostitute. They cannot consent, and those in the trade are child rapists, he said.
Marlene Carson is one of the foremost authorities on domestic child sex trafficking, and was kidnapped from Columbus, Ohio and trafficked for about three years. Passages spoke to her on the phone earlier last month.
“Follow the drugs, follow the money, you’ll find the girls,” Carson told Passages.
McMillen used this to point out that Pittsburgh is one of the top ten human trafficking cities, because of the opioid crisis and its positioning near major highways.
“We’re not that far from Pittsburgh. It’s happening in Brookville, it’s happening in Clarion,” McMillen said.
McMillen said housing and what to do with recovered victims is one of the biggest issues at present. She said it’s something that has to be addressed at a county level, which can be difficult in rural areas.