We know it is hard to believe, but sex trafficking is happening in Acadiana. Sex trafficking questions are not easy ones to answer, as we've learned through our Department of Justice. Unfortunately, many adults who are actually being trafficked do not identify themselves as victims. Like many survivors of sexual assault and abuse, they have formed a relationship with their abusers.
Perhaps the perpetrator is nice to her or buys her things she has never had before. Maybe he promises her a better life; maybe she has very few other options or has a drug habit that he supports. Many who want out of the situation have no idea where to go or that there are resources to help them. It is so important to bring awareness to the issue of sex trafficking, to make stricter penalties for those who traffic, to publicize hotline numbers and to provide funding to centers (such as Hearts of Hope) to support programs that help put survivors of sex trafficking on a path to help and healing.
Here's a recent sex trafficking cases in Acadiana:
August 2014: 8 massage parlors in Lafayette were shut down because of human trafficking and prostitution.
March 2014: Nine people were arrested in Lafayette Parish by Louisiana State Police Special Victims Unit for charges ranging from computer aided solicitation of a minor to prostitution. These arrests stemmed from an undercover operation which focused on human sex trafficking and the online solicitation of juveniles. Detectives were assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations and Lafayette Metro Narcotics. During the operation, detectives worked in various undercover capacities through online networking websites. They were able to identify nine people who requested to meet adults and/or children for various sexual purposes. In all of the cases the suspects offered money for sex.
February 2014: Lafayette resident Darneesha Lashay Martin, 22, and Alcoby Con LaSalle, 19, were targeted and subsequently arrested by State Police for allegedly enticing young girls into prostitution. They used classified ad sites on the Internet to set up appointments for the 16-year-old runaways they trafficked, and were suspected of using clothes and manicures to lure these young girls into a life of prostitution. The arrests of Martin and LaSalle came as part of a State Police investigation called Operation Carpe Diem, a two-month operation that brought in many arrests across Louisiana for alleged crimes including illegal narcotics trafficking, weapons violations, theft, fugitive warrants, human trafficking, juvenile pornography and sex offender violations.
Websites are often utilized by sex traffickers. One of the active websites is backpage.com
Keep your eyes and ears open; if something seems suspicious and you think someone is being trafficked, call the police.