Sex trafficking is an ongoing battle in Toledo, but social media outlets have made it easier for children to become sex trafficking victims.
A local FBI task force has also harnessed its power to catch and stop criminals who prey on juvenile victims.
Officials say pimps and predators are moving from Facebook and Twitter onto Instagram to prey on victims who keep their profile public. They target social media profiles of troubled youth, offering girls a better life. The victims are hooked with the lure of having drugs or money, which creates a viscious cycle of physical, emotional and psychological abuse.
"We attempt to identify juvenile victims. Our job is to protect children and to find those individuals who are trafficking children into the sex trade," said Agent Dave Dustin.
This issue has become his life-long work. Dustin joined the federal task force called "Precious Cargo" in the Glass City. The movement formed when police arrested 18 men in 2004 for trafficking more than 100 juvenile victims at a truck stop in Harrisburg, Penn. Police say majority of the pimps and more than half the victims were from Toledo.
Social worker and advocate Jane Ginter said it is difficult for girls to bounce back from a life living from fears.
"They don't have any sense of stability or what a normal relationship is like. To them normal relationships are people that abuse them. It's about power and control," said Ginter.
Ginter works with The Daughter Project, a local organization that houses sex trafficking survivors. Advocate Jeff Wilbarger started the non-profit to help give girls a place to heal.
"We knew that from the moment they walked in, we wanted to be able to say 'you know this is a home that was built specifically for you'," said Wilbarger.
The Daughter Project relies on donations to keep the house functioning. They hope to have 1,000 people join their Adopt-A-Daughter program on-line.
The Daughter Project, along with the work of Toledo's FBI task force, stands as a beacon of hope for life after this tragic experience.
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