LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A sad and consistent reality. Sex trafficking of children.
“There’s a trafficker behind that young person standing out on the street,” says Christina Vela the CEO of St. Jude’s Ranck for Children.
Predators and pimps exploiting kids. The common thread is kids, usually, girls, looking for attention in the wrong places.
“They are really bad guys, they look for girls who appear vulnerable, girls who based on their social media profile, they’re looking for attention,” says Lt. Allen Larsen with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Girls used to be recruited in person, now over half is done online.
“Social media is one way that kids often time get looped into this,” says Vela.
“They try to flatter these girls cause’ then they build up that rapport,” adds Lt. Larsen.
Las Vegas is the third highest in the nation for unaccompanied homeless youth, and those kids are far more likely to become victims.
“These are our kids that are falling vulnerable to these terrible life experiences,” adds Vela.
In this Cyber Safe Parent segment, we wanted to learn how children who have talked this rough road, can survive, even thrive.
“We need to break the cycle so that children do not continue a life of victimization,” says Vela.
We found one path of better and brighter days ahead at St. Jude’s Ranch for children.
“For kids with complex trauma, kids that truly have been victimized and abused and recognizing that child victims of sex trafficking need a bit more specialized services,” said Vela.
The Healing Center at St. Jude’s is the first of its kind program for the specialized care of child victims of sex trafficking.
“A place of healing and hope. A place of restoration. A place for joy to come back into young people’s lives,” added Vela.
The one-of-a-kind program will help kids with a holistic approach to therapy, art music, gardening, yoga, and meditation to improve self-esteem and strive for goals.
“There are children today who are victims of sex trafficking and have nowhere to go and it’s time that we do something about this,” said Vela.
“To get them the resources they need as far as counseling goes, and a safe place for them to lay their head, and everything else, as they transition, hopefully back to a normal life,” Lt. Larsen says.
For over 55 years St. Jude’s has been caring for abused and neglected children, and now, they are stepping up for victims of sex trafficking, with a place of hope and healing.
“We like to say we have the courage to stand with this population and create the Healing Center,” says Vela.
The center will break ground in January of 2022.
If you would like to help donate to St. Jude’s Healing Center, click HERE.