Like many in the Southern parts of the United States, Haleigh Reed, a mother, and member of a small-town community, found herself drawn to the Save The Children movement. She went to protests, posted online, and heavily advocated.
Those who post and follow the Save The Children hashtag are seen as being color blind, while also having racially insensitive perspectives. However, Haleigh Reed believes that racism and child trafficking go hand in hand.
“You should be open to helping and protecting those who can’t. Unfortunately, Black communities are still targeted, still under fire, and they need help,” Reed said.
“Our children are part of it cause they’re under fire, and they need our help. It shouldn’t ever be one or the other. It should be anybody who needs help, anybody who needs a hand, anybody who needs that should have it and get that help.”
The Save The Children hashtag was created by the far-right conspiracy group QAnon. They believe that Satanic pedophiles, mainly high ranking officials, and celebrities, are running a global child trafficking ring who are plotting against President Donald Trump. However, not all who follow the hashtag Save The Children believe this conspiracy.
Since the start of QAnon, many companies and celebrities have gone under scrutiny. Companies and public figures like Wayfair, Joe Biden, and Beyonce were shrouded in conspiracies of child trafficking, although none of these allegations have been proven to be true.
Human Trafficking non-profits have been extremely vocal in dismantling the misinformation through flooding the new hashtags sprouting up from QAnon [#SaveTheChildrenNow #SaveTheChildren2020 #TheMoreYouKnow]. As well, many have posted publicly rejecting QAnon and the hashtags.
Kyra Doubek, who is the executive director of the Washington Trafficking Prevention, claims that the posts and stories shared by followers of Save the Children and QAnon originated from speculation and suspicion.
“When we are talking about all these rumors, we continue to take the focus off of what creates the problem, who is creating the problem, which is mostly white men who are married, who have post secondary degrees, have financial security, positions of power.”
Often times, stories about human trafficking fail to include what the cause of human trafficking is and who the buyers are. As well as how the demographics of the survivors look. Doubek also made it clear that buyers can come from all types of backgrounds and races.
Doubek defines the characteristics of the exploiters and the survivors as those coming from the same backgrounds whether that’s poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence, or homelessness.
“When we are looking at the problem of human trafficking, and especially when these rumors are put out, we are not talking about racism, which is a root factor, we are not talking about poverty, which is a root factor, we are not talking about houselessness and substance use disorder and these are all root factors,” said Doubek.
The power difference between the buyers and the survivors become more apparent in the criminal justice system. The formal charge of buyers is typically a misdemeanor of solicitation of prostitution. Survivors of human trafficking are often charged with prostitution and get harsh punishment even if they are minors in some states.
“If they both go to jail, buyers always get off because they are going to be able to afford a lawyer,” Doubek said. With this systematic discrimination within the criminal justice system the racial disparities can be seen as more direct. With not only class but the perception of innocence between both Buyers and Survivors.
Looking deeper into the racial disparities of child trafficking based off of the data given by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The majority of minors being trafficked in the King County area are young black girls. These numbers depict the trafficking victims by race involved cases that were prosecuted in King County, note that King County’s population is less than 7% Black.
Reed, like many, was not aware of the severity of child trafficking within the United States. Yet it wasn’t until Jeffrey Epstein and the start of the Save The Children hashtag when people became more aware of how close child trafficking is to them and their families.
“I would think about that movie with Liam Neeson looking for his daughter, and he discovered this big human trafficking ring. You know, I don’t think I was alone in that conception with a lot of people just years ago thinking that was how it was,” said Reed.
“I think the movement [Save The Children] helped put it into perspective that that’s not it. It doesn’t always have to be these elite or these big human trafficking rings. It could be a handful of people from your hometown that think that they can do whatever they want with whoever they want.”
Sex is often seen as an intriguing topic that can often gain people’s attention and violence, whether it be physical or emotional, is appalling to most. Child trafficking is seen as horrendous, yet it has been front and center of most discussions regarding sexual exploitation.
According to Audrey Baedke, the Programs Manager from Real Escape from the Sex Trade, followers of QAnon and those who share child trafficking conspiracies online can often disregard the root of child trafficking problems.
“I think the reason QAnon has resonated is that they didn’t look at it and say that could be my kid. One of the things that really concerns me about the reality of sex trafficking is that there are a lot of white middle-class individuals that do not look at it as that is my kid.”
“I have the belief that any kid could be my kid and that every kid will have an effect on my kid and believe I can want to make this world a better place and by having spaces that are equitable for everyone. Because that affects everyone, “said Baedke.
However, no matter how much awareness QAnon or the hashtag Save The Children receives, the cost of awareness of the true problems of child trafficking will go unseen.
“When we focus on just that [conspiracies from QAnon], we overlook what is really happening. Another thing that is most noteworthy to look at, particularly in, that there is a disproportionate number of African-American girls who are being sold for sex and a disproportionate number of Caucasian men who are purchasing sex,” said Baedke.
Regarding what both Baedke and Doubek have stated, child trafficking isn’t a political issue, rather it’s a racial and equity issue. It’s about overlooking the disproportionate numbers of trafficked survivors and buyers. The solution isn’t quite clear, but what is known is that it is the responsibility of our society to bring racial justice and racial equity.
QAnon and followers of the Save The Children hashtag aren’t solely individuals intent on spreading lies on the internet or racist conservatives out to destroy the elites. Many are parents, teachers, and community members who want to help and might be open to learning more. To dismiss them completely is to miss out on a potential aid against child trafficking. We have the opportunity to start a conversation here.
Non-profits might benefit from infiltrating spaces that consist of QAnon and Save The Children to promote opportunities such as fundraisers or workshops to spread accurate information around child trafficking and the racial disparities amongst trafficked survivors. By educating and providing potential solutions, the harmful rumors, theories, and misinformation will be less likely to spread.
Meanwhile, followers of the Save The Children hashtags and QAnon could make a bigger impact on the issue by being more receptive to the work of those who dedicate their lives to fight against child trafficking. By being open to the information that’s been collected for years now they will be able to not only learn the warning signs of human trafficking, but also understand the underlying racial and socioeconomic causes.