DMST – Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking – is a large problem in the United States. It is estimated that 100,000 to 300,000 minor children in the United States are at risk of being introduced to and victimized by sex trafficking each year.

A couple of explanations are in order.

"Domestic" means these are kids who are being raised in the United States, not kids just passing through. "Trafficking" means they are being exploited where they live, they are not being moved about.

I went to a seminar at our church hosted by StreetGrace.org. It was stunning to hear exactly what is going on in this area (Atlanta).

Often, these are not kids in the shadows. They are right in front of us, plain as day every day.

One brave woman who spoke at the seminar I attended was in her early 30s. Her father started trafficking her when she was 8 years old. She went to school every day. Sometimes in her dual life she was taken to a place where she was kept in a large dog crate. She played on the girls’ softball team in high school. She graduated from her high school. She was only able to break away from sex trafficking controlled by an adult male four years ago.

Think about this. From age 8 to 28, she was forced to live a terrible double life.

The stories are awful, and this is a family newspaper, so I will keep this at a high level. The thing we must realize is this is going on around us wherever we live.

Illustrations were given about kids in small towns and kids in large cities, all of whom are victims of these horrific crimes.

When surveys are done, many think of these activities as victimless crimes. I think we have learned in the past year with the “#me too” movement that even for adults, these are not victimless crimes. They are not just perpetrated on females, either.

In the seminar, the story was told about the former drug dealer who had turned to this as his activity and given up being a drug dealer. Asked why, he said simply there was more money in DMST than in dealing drugs.

Pornography plays a large part in DMST. Today, nearly 30 percent of pornography viewers are females, up from almost zero not so long ago. We were told that nearly everyone seen “acting” in pornography is a DMST victim in one way or another. These are most often not actors or actresses operating of their own free will. There is a controller nearby that keeps these people under lock and key, so to speak.

Yet, most people who have not been educated on this subject think it is no big deal. We were told that, when surveyed, Millennials think, given a choice of eradicating DMST or recycling, they would choose to be more concerned about recycling.

I urge you to take a look at StreetGrace.org (https://www.streetgrace.org/). Further, be aware of your surroundings and the minors with whom you interact. If something seems “out of kilter,” there is a strong probability it is.

The hotline for help is 1-888-373-7888. You will see it prominently displayed on the Street Grace website.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.