Human Trafficking is Here, Hawaii

Over 90% of human traffickers are known to the victims

This 4-1/2-minute read has essential information to safeguard your family. If you can only do one thing and don’t want to read it watch this TED Talk, Growing Up In a Pornified Culture, by Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Thank you for your time.

Why is this post on an architect’s website?

Because we care about families. What happens to one family affects others. We are all connected. If your kids or grandkids are exposed to pornography and sexual predators through their devices then your family and your home are no longer safe.

Human traffickers are like termites eating away at the future of Hawaii by targeting kids, our most precious resource.

On May 4, 2019, I accompanied my mom to Awaken, a human trafficking conference sponsored by the Alec & Belle Waterhouse Lecture Series, a ministry of Wai`alae Baptist Church. She feared for her granddaughters when she heard that most girls induced into sex trafficking are brought in by someone they already know and trust.

brown-haried girl in white t-shirt and dark pink shorts sitting on beach with head on knees
Photo by Martin Vorel on LibreShot

Human trafficking, e.g., labor- and sex-trafficking, is the fastest growing crime in the world. The “product” is reusable, easily transportable, and lucrative; $250,000-$500,000 per year is a conservative estimate. It ensnares all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and genders.

Becky McDonald, Founder and President of Women at Risk, International presented a range of scary and heart-warming stories, risk factors, alarming statistics, and action steps. A local panel of trafficking survivors, non-profit leaders, and a Honolulu Police Department Lieutenant shared their experience and answered questions, affirming that yes, this happens here.

black car facing camera with female in red dress and red tights holding black umbrella standing facing car
Some sex traffickers are high school students running fellow students.
Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

One short video told the true story of a local high school girl who was providing sex services in cars in the school’s parking lot during school hours. Her handler was a female classmate. In fact, most human traffickers are women.

McDonald grew up in Pakistan, lived in the Philippines, and currently lives in Michigan. Her compelling message: civilians can ask more questions and observe more behaviors and signs of trafficking than police because people let their guard down around regular people. The most helpful tipsters identifying victims who need help are waitresses, flight attendants, health professionals, tattoo artists, nail technicians, clerks, bus drivers, and teachers.

“Take it personally and you will know what to do.”

-Becky McDonald
If we think of this person as our kid or our sister, we’ll use common sense and know what to do. Photo by Jonny McLaren on Unsplash

“When things don’t make sense, pay attention.”

-Becky McDonald
Students with rolls of cash or hotel keys are danger signs. Photo by Vitaly Taranov on Unsplash

Signs of human trafficking

  • Bar code tattooed on the back of the person’s neck
  • Crowns tattooed on neck or chest
  • Children with wads of cash
  • A much older boyfriend
  • Hotel keys in her purse
  • She doesn’t know what neighborhood she lives in (because she is moved around so much)
  • Using tampons daily, not just during periods
The first exposure to porn is at 11 or 12 years old. Photo by Grzegorz Walczak on Unsplash

What you need to know

  • Gonzo porn is normalized and mainstream. It includes brutality, hardcore sex, and real and simulated violence against women. “It makes Playboy look like Sunday school stuff,” warned McDonald.
  • The first exposure to porn is at 11 or 12 years old. Girls and boys get unhealthy, harmful ideas about themselves and sexuality if their first exposure to sex is gonzo porn.
  • 1/3 of all downloads are porn.
  • 1 in 11 men in Hawaii are buying sex online  = 18,000 buyers.
  • American youth don’t think of oral sex as sex
  • 2/3 of 15-24 year-olds are having sex
  • There are sex clubs in high school
  • Predators are able to turn on the computer’s camera using FaceTime and take pictures of kids getting dressed and then coerce them into sex trafficking.
  • Girls recruit other girls at the average age of 12-14 years for sex trafficking

“Whenever there is a power differential predators will flock.

-Becky McDonald

Hawaii factors related to human trafficking

  1. Youth culture
  2. Drugs
  3. Poverty
  4. Materialism
  5. Government corruption
  6. Organized crime
  7. Tourism
  8. Minority communities
  9. Mining (wherever there are lots of men, sex workers are brought in)
  10. Entertainment economy (strippers, child sex workers, and massage parlors, and brothels [174 brothels in Honolulu out of 196 in Hawaii])
  11. Demand
  12. Secrecy (cultures of privacy)
  13. Military
wooden surface with old-fashioned camera next to small notebook with ballpoint pen on top
Write it down. Record. Think like a detective. Lightened image by StockSnap from Pixabay

How you can help

Talk about healthy sexuality with your kids. If most of the sex ed is from porn, they have no idea.

Take notes, record facts, take pictures. Get enough information to help an officer investigate the situation or rescue the victim.

Apps to report sex trafficking

Who to call

Photo by Huỳnh Đạt on

Ho`ola Na Pua (808) 222-1872

Trafficking Victim Assistance Program Hawaii (888) 398-1188 toll-free

Department of Human Services/Child Welfare Services (808) 832-1999

Lt. Michael Brede, Jr., HPD (808) 723-8481

The National Human Trafficking Hotline (888) 373-7888

Stop the Sale 800-7659

1-877-363-7528 (1 877 end slav)

McDonald’s book recommendations

Good Touch Bad Touch: Parenting Guide to Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse by Sheena Herod

The Slave Across the Street: The True Story of How an American Teen Survived the World of Human Trafficking by Theresa Flores

Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines

Oral Sex Is the New Goodnight Kiss: The Sexual Bullying of Girls by Sharlene Azam

Who else is fighting?

Thorn – a nonprofit developing technology to battle child sex abuse on the internet, founded by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

Fight the New Drug – non-religious, non-legislative organization using science, facts, and personal accounts to educate about the harmful effects of porn

Other Resources

TED Talks on pornography

What’s wrong with pornography, you may ask.

  1. Today’s porn is not Playboy. It is video of violence and degradation. It teaches young people that sex is not making love but rather being hurt and hurting someone else. Rape is a common theme.
  2. McDonald said porn addiction, like any substance addiction, requires escalating stimulation to achieve the dopamine effect in the brain. 20-year-olds are experiencing erectile dysfunction because their first sex education was exposure to gonzo porn.
  3. Kids are exposed to porn younger and younger. Do you want your 8-year-old looking at that stuff? The neuroplasticity of young people’s brains makes early exposure to porn especially harmful. They are literally more impressionable.

Final thoughts

Be safe. Keep your family safe. Make sure they know how much you love and value them.

Bad guys hide in dark, secret corners. Encourage daily talks so kids feel safe and comfortable being open with you.

Let God, church, and faith embolden you to protect your family.

Mom, baby in carrier, and daughter holding hands walking away on a forest path with sunlight streaming from above
Kids filled with hope and purpose won’t seek approval from others because they have love of self and a strong center.
Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

In addition to having and sharing information, you need to do one more thing:

Every day, in some way, make sure your loved ones know how important they are. Not just to you, but to the community, their family, their world. They are important and loved and valued. It’s not about being popular, pretty, or having the right things. They are important because they are here, at this time, in this country, with these conditions being just so. Help them find that thing that fills them with light and purpose. We are each a part of a meaningful whole.

Don’t let them settle for friends, relationships, or treatment that is less than worthy.


  1. It is sad to think we need to worry about this too. Besides the typical issues of bullying, being active, academics, and general happiness, this stuff can sneak into our children’s lives.


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