Awareness group says sex trafficking more prevalent during the holidays

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Tis the season for spreading joy and happiness, but for those who would lure young people into a life of sex slavery.

It is also a time to prey on the vulnerable.

"Average age is 12. Average age, so that means we have younger ones too," said Lena Walthers, Director of the non-profit group Awareness is Prevention.

Walthers says the holidays are a time when traffickers are out looking for victims, at the malls, in schools, wherever young people hang out.

"It's easy. It's very easy for traffickers to even grab somebody, or just befriend somebody and say you know I'm in a holiday mood, you want me to buy you a present or anything," said Walthers.

What seemingly starts out as friendship quickly turns into a relationship, then a relationship with conditions.

“I was choked and beaten down, and told that I was going to be this man's hoe," said Anni Lobert, who now runs the nonprofit Hookers for Jesus.

Year's ago she fell victim herself and says she almost didn't survive.

An estimated 300,000 children in America are victims of sex trafficking. Walthers says Metro Police report 2 or 3 victims in our area every day.

The holidays may be prime time for sex crimes, but advocates say awareness is key, and for those who would lure or partake, they have an answer as well.

“As far as the demand side of things, I think we do need to bring more education. And I do believe punishment," said Lobert.

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