In recent years, television shows like CBS’ “Criminal Minds” have given viewers a fictionalized glimpse into how kidnappers and murderers operate. There seems to be a public fascination with how criminals think: that show has run for fourteen seasons and is still going strong.
But while people can usually get their heads around the psychology behind common crimes, some acts are so monstrous they seem incomprehensible. Human slavery and sex trafficking fall firmly into that category.
Those heinous crimes are making headlines this month after the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender and billionaire playboy who has now been charged with trafficking minors in Florida and New York. While the allegations shocked the public, they fit a pattern that is recognizable to criminal experts.
Stephen Komorek is one of those experts. In an interview with Law Enforcement Today, the head of the investigation group Conflict International explained the modus operandi of predators who commit the crimes Epstein is accused of perpetrating.
According to Komorek, girls recruited by sex traffickers are not chosen randomly. Instead, criminals target vulnerable children who often come from broken families and traumatic backgrounds.
“These types of people, they know what to look for,” he said. “Especially in the world of social media where people post everything about their lives. The fights they’ve had, their troubles, plans, innermost thoughts… it’s all out there.”
Once predators identify vulnerable targets, they exploit their vulnerabilities to offer a safe haven.
But there’s nothing safe about their traps.
“People like Epstein are looking for susceptible parties,” Komorek said. “Young girls who have undergone abuse. Runaways. Others who came directly from the child welfare system. These are prime targets, and Epstein knew it.”
That’s an issue that experts have known about for some time, and a dire problem that impacts some 100,000 children around the globe.
“60% of child sex trafficking victims recovered through FBI raids across the U.S. in 2013 were from foster care or group homes,” the National Foster Youth Institute explains. “Children without families to make them feel loved and cared for are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by sex traffickers.”
When most people hear about children without families, they want to do something to help. Sexual criminals do the opposite: exploit those children to their sick advantage.
“The first thing they do, whether they bring them in overseas or domestically, is reduce their connection to law enforcement,” Komorek said. “They take away their ability to go to the police, often by saying that they’ve already been paid off and wouldn’t help the girls even if they asked.”
Komorek added that traffickers see girls as objects to be used, not as real human beings.
“Pope John Paul II said the opposite of love is not hate. It’s use,” Komorek said. “And that is the goal of these traffickers and child exploiters. They use these children and they exploit them. There is no love, even if that’s something that’s promised to them. This is the exact opposite of love.”
Jeffrey Epstein will have his day in court, and it looks as if the convicted sex offender will pay for his life of dark secrets. Hopefully, the truth will come out and justice prevail.
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