Covid Kidnaps

During the pandemic, sex trafficking groups have benefited from the confusion and are taking new victims.


photo by Jamey Simon

The increase in mask-wearing and isolated online activity has proven a dangerous incentive to sex-traffickers.

Jamey Simon, Staff Writer

Mask wearing can be considered normal now and is mandated in the majority of places around the world. But although masks protects us from germs, does they protect from predators? In the current pandemic, there has been a significant increase in kidnappings and sex trafficking in the United States.

When the virus first began to spread in February, we asked ourselves what groups of people this would affect the most. The focus was on who needed help. In recent history, extremist and sex trafficking groups have benefited from world crises. During wars around the world, some militants use the confusion to their advantage and increase sex trafficking.

In America, we seen this same trend — just in a much less violent scene. The Super Bowl raises sex trafficking percentages every single year, doe to large public gathering, especially in restaurants and bars. In the 2019 Super Bowl, over 2,000 people were arrested for having charges or suspecting of dealing in sex trafficking in the United States. 

Now that we know how confusion, chaos, and strange times raise sex trafficking, we are sure to see the newly presented problem with the novel coronavirus. The first way sex trafficking is made easier is by masks. Although masks are important for public health, they hide a good deal of the face, which makes it hard for security footage to identify potential culprits. Apart from recognition, there are facial signals. If you don’t know you are walking by someone being kidnapped they might mouth the words help me or something else discreetly. Now that their mouths are hidden, all that’s left are their eyes and body language. 

Safety centers for escaped victims are also unable to hold as many people, due to the need to remain six feet apart from others. Medical facilities are at full capacity so if the victims are hurt, they are having trouble getting them help.

Sarah Mckinnis, a co-founder of an anti-trafficking organization in Cleveland, said,”Being able to find placement for them is hard because just like other medical facilities and shelters, they are overrun right now and not taking in new individuals.” 

Children and adults alike have both been online a lot more during quarantine. Since social media is an avenue for sex traffickers to find their victims, the increased online activity has helped make the traffickers job easier. Predators can reach out to potential victims online in a variety of ways. Whether it is pretending to be a friend or a romantic partner, the traffickers have more time to speak with their victims and get to know them. Since kids are also doing a lot of school online, they have more time to be on their phones during school when they should be doing work.

Many thought the pandemic would lessen sex trafficking because people would all be at home; however, this has not been not the case. During the pandemic, many are on their own without the protection they normally depend on. Now more than ever, children have less access to trusted adults whose jobs are to protect them. Without those people to rely on, the victims find themselves unsure of what to do, leading to potentially deadly decisions.

COVID-19 has led to new and unusual situations all around the world. Some we expected, but others have shown up shockingly. Keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious activities that could be concealed by the current situation, and be careful while using social media.