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Crimes of exploitation

Deirdre Flynn November 30th, 2011

She walks toward the door, gravel crackling under her shoes. It opens, and the man — old enough to be her dad, maybe old enough to be her grandfather, but either way, old enough to know better — lets her in. Her mind is blank and her body numb.

She has to do this because even if the gun against her head isn’t visible, she knows it’s there.

Somewhere in the darkness watching is the man she once thought was her boyfriend, or once thought to be the cute boy she chatted with online and decided to meet, or was someone who had promised security after she ran away from her abusive home.

Instead, he is her pimp. Should she resist, the punishment would outweigh whatever is waiting now.

Tonight she — and an estimated 200,000 just like her — will endure one of the worst crimes imaginable: commercial sexual exploitation.

She isn’t in an international country, nor is she foreign. She is an American, living in the land of the free.

Human trafficking — defined by the United Nations as the recruitment, transportation or transfer of persons, by threat, force, coercion or deception for the purpose of exploitation — is at pandemic proportions. Trafficking is growing so exponentially, antitrafficking organization Polaris Project said the government is still working on an up-to-date estimate of trafficked persons. Traffickers can make an estimated $250,000 annually off one young girl.

According to Freedom Youth Project, the largest demographic for targeted victims is American girls 12 to 14 years old.

Where does this happen? Everywhere. Including your town. Oklahoma is the heart of America’s main route for trafficking humans. “Because Oklahoma is located at the center of three interstates, we have had major human-trafficking issues,” said state Rep. Pam Peterson.

The FBI estimates nearly 100 girls per hour are sold for sex in Oklahoma.

One of traffickers’ primary duties is to move victims around to avoid detection and to meet the demand found in profitable cities.

The statistics may seem overwhelming, but knowledge is power. Victims stuck in horrific conditions cannot ask for help; help must go to them. Become educated on signs of trafficking and how to report concerns.

“Human trafficking has largely gone unnoticed and unreported due to lack of awareness,” said Mark Elam of Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans. Look beneath the surface when you see a woman out in a strange situation. Don’t dismiss her humanity or assume there’s substance abuse or a behavioral problem.

Don’t be afraid to act.

Deirdre Flynn is an Oklahoma City resident. She works with Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans and spent the past year in Thailand as part of The Sold Project.

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11.30.2011 at 05:28 Reply

Sexual trafficking of girls is a serious problem, but the writer disorts the issue with the outrageoous claim that supposedly the "FBI estimates nearly 100 girls per hour are sold for sex in Oklahoma." That simply cannot be true given the other statistics used in the article and statistics easily found from other agencies on the Internet. Is there a context that is missing? What would it possibly be? Did the writer talk to the FBI? Where did the number come from? Are Oklahoma law enforcement officers such an ill-trained lot that they can't do anything about the 873,600 girls (are some girls sold over and over here?) "sold for sex" here each year? The "100 per hour" claim should be corrected or at least given some context. Also, why in the world would the writer go to Thailand as part of an anti-human trafficking effort if things are so bad here in Oklahoma and across the country? Again, sex trafficking is major problem throughout the world, but unsubstantiated fear mongering in Oklahoma only works against awareness.


11.30.2011 at 10:04


wow. you seem pretty bitter and ready to rip on someone who is making a difference in the world. Who cares if she went to Thailand and did good there and then came back and did some good here? I think you protest too much Spookycat. What do you do with your life? Overeact to good deeds? Help support the FBI stated statistic of 100 girls being sold per hour? 



11.30.2011 at 10:12

If the #'s are anywhere close to true then "fear mongering " (which seems to be substantiated) is needed here in OKC so people are aware. 

Since you seem to know this is an issue I'd like to ask then what are you doing to bring awareness? Are you writing article with better "substantiated" stats?

Ignorance and denial work far more against awareness than the temper tanturm you are throwing over a dispute in exact stats.


12.01.2011 at 07:45

Well, let’s see here.

Let’s assume that 1 girl is exploited 8 times a day. Or once every 3 hours (X)

100 girls are exploited every hour, which is 2400 a day (Y).

(X) x (Y) = 7,200

7,200 is the number of girls that would be required to maintain that 100/hr rate.  The number of girls probably doesn’t fluctuate that much.  You’re implication is that every time a child is exploited it’s never the same person.  But whenever there is a “pimp” involved, that’s not a one time thing, they will be exploited repeatedly.  However, for the sake of argument, I’ll assume the possibility that there could be more than twice that number and make a worst case scenario of 15,000 girls a day.

In a state of approximately 3.5 million, that’s 0.002057% - 0.004285% of the population.

So, I do not believe that the 100 per/hour figure is exaggerated.  It’s certainly not hard to imagine that there is at least an equivalent number (7,200-15,000) of perverts willing to pay for this. 

If you deconstruct the value ($250,000) that the author claims one child can bring in over a year, sadly that means an average trick is around $100 (250,000 / 365 = 684.93 / 8 = $85.62).  Having this horrific act so cheaply priced can only serve to promote the act of human trafficking.

Frankly your attempt to deride the value of this information makes you suspect in my opinion.  And it makes me wonder how you’d feel if it was your child being used like this.


12.01.2011 at 12:54

@omgbear- thank you for taking the time to break down (and support) the statistic mentioned. It was a bit difficult to get into it all in a 500 word max Op-Ed. It is important for people to understand the severity of human trafficking in OK as well as the world.

Take care.


11.30.2011 at 10:13 Reply

If the #'s are anywhere close to true then "fear mongering " (which seems to be substantiated) is needed here in OKC so people are aware. 

Since you seem to know this is an issue I'd like to ask then what are you doing to bring awareness? Are you writing article with better "substantiated" stats?

Ignorance and denial work far more against awareness than the temper tanturm you are throwing over a dispute in exact stats.


11.30.2011 at 10:41

Look, the issue I'm bringing up is a journalistic one. I don't believe a major fact the writer presented, I absolutely think human/sex trafficking is deplorable and a huge worldwide problem, but I don't believe 100 girls per hour are getting sold for sex in Oklahoma. Do the math. That seems like an outrageous claim to me.


12.01.2011 at 05:22

Here's a link to a FBI Enforcement Bulletin published March 2011:

It states:

"Although comprehensive research to document the number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking, an estimated 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation."

Note the admission that comprehensive research is not available and the "at risk" designation. By population share, that would mean Oklahoma has about 3,500 children, both girls and boys, "at risk," not that they're getting sold for sex.  Obviously, this is a high number and a terrible, awful problem, but it doesn't support the writer's numbers about Oklahoma. It also means your 7,200 number is probably not accurate. I doubt a lot of children would be brought to Oklahoma for sexual purposes for a variety of reasons. I also personally doubt there are 7,200 girls getting sold for sex in Oklahoma today as I write this, but I will concede that since there are no reliable figures, as the FBI states, no one really knows.

Also, the total number of illegal acts under the number given in the article would be around 873,000 a year here in Oklahoma. A number that high would almost certainly mean such acts would be more apparent in our community and there would be far more arrests. At least, I hope there would be far more arrests given that number.

The Gazette commentary clearly states: "The FBI estimates nearly 100 girls per hour are sold for sex in Oklahoma." The writer has now conceded the number is not really a FBI estimate but a number drawn from a report from three different organizations, including her own. She has also added some much-needed context. I commend the writer for this and, as I mentioned, for her efforts in fighting sexual trafficking of girls. I do think that sensationalizing iinformation by not providing appropriate context ultimately works against awareness, but, again, that's just an opinion.

I repeat that my point is one of journalistic standards, and this will be my last comment.


11.30.2011 at 10:50 Reply

You don't have to believe it for it to be true. 

And it is not the only stat listed here. I think it's a shame you decided to override this article with your rather personal attack on the writer. this person is trying to bring awareness to a horrific cause and you decided to start spliting hairs along with questioning her life choices. Shame on you.


thank you Dierdre for writing this article.



11.30.2011 at 11:22

I strongly support the writer's overall cause and her efforts, but a major fact she presents in her article--100 girls per hour are sold for sex in Oklahoma--is simply impossible. This misinformation is now on the web, and it will be undoubtedly cited by others because it's published in a reputable publication as a sanctioned opinion piece. I hope the Gazette editors correct this somehow, but it's probably too late for the web.


12.01.2011 at 01:11
@Spookycat11 You keep arguing thse #'s can't be accurate yet you have done nothing to prove otherwise (beyond state "they are impossible to believe"). "Unsubstainated" facts (opinions?) are exactly what got you yelling about this about this piece in the first place.
But enough- I am done wasting time trying to reason with you. Talk about someone missing the forest for the trees.
Anything else that needs to be said was covered quite succiently by @omgbear s comment to you above.


11.30.2011 at 11:09 Reply


The statistic regarding underage persons being sold for sex per hour stems from a report pulled together from OATH, the FBI and ICE. Note: it says "estimate" as well as "nearly"- but this level of explotiation is happening whether you want to believe it or not.  To clarify: The stat speaks to minors who are repeatedly sold for sex, not always new persons every hour.

Above and beyond all of this: Human Trafficking is occuring in Oklahoma at terrifying levels. People should be scared. Then maybe will action take place.

SpookyCat- if you put your outrage at what you perceive to be poor journalism towards fighting for this cause, I believe you would find yourself to be an effective advocate.

Thank you OK Gazette for allowing this article (and the debate it sparked) to take place. Thank you to the other commenters for their kind words.

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