Closer to home, a group of professionals is working to train others to spot danger, in an effort to protect children from sex trafficking, abuse and drug endangered lives.
The focus of the Hidden Impact conference is identifying and stopping the trauma that happens to children in many forms. The program was put on by Community Partnership of the Ozarks and attended by child care professionals, social workers, law enforcement, teachers and mental health professionals.
The average age of entry into prostitution in the united states is between twelve and fourteen years old according to one national report.
Another, more common problem, children being born into families with drug issues where the child suffers the consequences.
These professionals are working to make sure these children are thrown a lifeline.
It's a shock for many to hear of girls as young as eleven being trafficked for sex. Equally as shocking, why they are forced to do it.
"For drugs, for money. Survival sex that would just be a roof over their heads, food, just basic necessities being met." said Dr. Rachael Harrington.
Drury University Professor and Psychologist Dr. Rachael Harrington is working to train people who come in contact with children in their work to spot the signs of child sex trafficking.
One case of a fourteen-year-old Springfield girl being trafficked was traced to a site called Backpages.com. Another mentally disabled girl was groomed for years by a Lebanon man to be tortured as a sex slave.
Harrington said sex trafficking data is difficult to come by because the crime itself is often mis-categorized.
"A lot of people are being mislabeled as rape victims, domestic violence victims or just victims of child sexual abuse." says Harrington. "If law enforcement, healthcare providers and people from the various agencies that interact with these people if they are not asking the right questions they might not realize they are victims of commercial sex and so victims of trafficking."
Another issue addressed during the Hidden Impact conference is "drug endangered children."
"Across the state of Missouri there are 180,000 children that live in a home where they affected by drug or alcohol exposure." said Steve Miller of Community Partnership of the Ozarks. "The drug we hear the most about is the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine."
Miller said the goal of his talk is to create a unifying force to help drug endangered children.
"But, these children grow up to be adults and they do have an impact on our society, everybody is affected by the methamphetamine epidemic in our area," says Miller.
And whether a child is dealing with abuse, drug endangerment or sex trafficking Miller says the community must ask one question.
"How can we all play a role in decreasing this or minimizing the risk to children," says Miller.
There are many telltale signs a child may being trafficked including a much older boyfriend or girlfriend, traveling with an older male or female or having sums of money a teen wouldn't usually have.
The information below form the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America's Prostituted Children may be helpful in identifying and helping victims.
Signs of DMST:
Presence of an older boyfriend
Signs of violence and/or psychological trauma
Masking charges such as curfew violations, truancy, and other status offenses
Travel with an older male who is not a guardian
Chronic running away (3 or more times)
Tattoos that mark a victim as property
Access to material things the youth cannot afford
Who is vulnerable:
Age (primary factor of vulnerability)
Past history of abuse
Drug use by parents
Lack of family support (runaways, homeless)
History with Child Protective Services (or similar state agency)
How victim's are controlled:
Using Coercion and Threats
Coercion and Threats