Though human sex trafficking continues to be a major issue that plagues the entire globe, the battle against it rarely gets the attention that it deserves. Last year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline saw 4,460 cases of human trafficking, many of which involved children being trafficked for sex. Making matters even worse, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that one in sex endangered runaways are victims of sex trafficking.
Thankfully, a group of volunteers have come together to take on the human trafficking crisis head-on. The volunteers have started a San Diego-based non profit called Saved in America, which is made up of former law enforcement officers, Navy SEALs and other former military members.
Thanks to this group, countless children have been saved from the clutches of sex traffickers. One such girl was 15-year-old Seraphine Bustillos, who went missing from her California home in July of 2017. Saved in America teamed up with the local police force and helped law enforcement find her three months later. She was with a much older man with a lengthy criminal record when she was found.
Joseph Travers, a chaplain and private investigator, is one of the cofounders of Saved in America. He said he was inspired to start the group when he heard the story of Brittanee Drexel, who disappeared in 2009. She is believed to have been kidnapped, raped, and murdered by traffickers.
“I knew that street gangs, prison gangs and cartels took over drug trafficking in the 1980s and then they took over sex trafficking at the turn of the century,” Travers told People. “When I read about Brittanee Drexel, who disappeared off the face of the planet, I just knew gangs were involved.”
Saved in America has assisted in 60 successful child recoveries in the last three years, and they hope to add to this number in 2018, as the work they are doing is more important now than ever before. In the video below this story, Saved in America volunteers estimate that there are between 3,400 and 8,100 victims of commercial exploitation, including child sex trafficking, in San Diego alone every year. The FBI officially considers San Diego to be one of the 13 highest areas of child sex trafficking in this country.
“The public has got to know what’s going on,” said Sean Murphy, a retired San Diego police lieutenant and member of Saved in America. “It’s happening right here in San Diego, California.”
“All we want to see is, we want to see the recovery of that child and it brought back to where its childhood is not stolen from him or her,” added Master Chief Kirby Horrell, a retired Navy SEAL.
Find out more about Saved In America in the video below, and SHARE this story so we can spread the word about the amazing work this group is doing!