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Administrative Issues Journal

Abstract

The sex trafficking of minors is a hard-to-detect and underreported crime. Its insidiousness makes it exceedingly difficult to recognize, and treatment, once a victim is recovered, is long-term and costly. Urban areas are in the spotlight when it comes to the trafficking of minors. However, the unsuspecting rural context consists of specific dynamics that may make children in the countryside more vulnerable than in the city. Using the case of an Oklahoma town, the researchers conducted a presentation on child sex trafficking for school personnel at a K-8 rural school. They administered pre- and post-surveys and conducted follow-up interviews with a few of the school staff. Findings indicate that several factors influence the persistence of sex trafficking in rural areas, some of which are geographically specific, such as tight small-town networks and a lack of victim services. Another finding was that Oklahoma and other rural states lack comprehensive sex education, which leaves children more vulnerable to sexual predators. Anthony Down’s theory of rational ignorance and Bryan Caplan’s rational irrationality help explain the cost-benefit ratio that works to maintain the lack of comprehensive sex education and professional training on this issue. The researchers recommend a campaign to promote the benefits of comprehensive sex education while emphasizing the vulnerability of children’s safety without it, showing the ties between drug use, gangs, and sex trafficking.

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