A missing and vulnerable teenager has been reunited with her family 48 hours after Hope for Justice’s US investigators began searching for her. She was found at the home of a man more than 10 years older than her who was a known felon.
The case began when Hope for Justice was notified about a 16-year-old girl who was missing and endangered. Members of the community had seen her photo on social media as friends and family tried to locate her.
In the US, one in every three runaway teenagers is being lured into prostitution or human trafficking within the first 48 hours of leaving home, according to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children. That is why our team in the US prioritizes searching for, locating and rescuing missing teenagers as a preventative measure to reduce, and ultimately eradicate, human trafficking.
One of our US Investigators said: “I think the things we do in life are often motivated by our own personal experiences and circumstances. I have a 16-year-old daughter of my own. That is what drives me to help these missing children. I think ‘What if this was my 16-year-old daughter?’
“The reason we don’t clock off at the end of the day is because we are aware of the evil that is in the world. It makes you desperate to reach these children before the unthinkable happens.
“Based on statistics, we know that one in three runaways is trafficked, and an effort to locate them is not only proactive but preventative in nature. Our aim is to find them and get them home so that their parents and families can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Hope for Justice received a message from a woman at a faith-based organization whom we had previously trained to spot the signs of modern-day slavery. At 6.30am one morning earlier this month, she shared a photograph of a girl who had gone missing and asked whether the charity could help.
The Hub identified friends of the missing girl, conducted interviews, distributed missing person posters and used surveillance to pinpoint the girl’s location.
“We immediately began our search,” the investigator said. “We located her within 48 hours of being contacted. This is sadly not always the way; sometimes investigations take months or even years.
“We found her in an endangered situation in the Nashville area, at the home of a man in his late 20s. This man was a known felon. We recovered the 16-year-old girl.”
The girl is now safely home with her family, and has been referred to EPIC Girl, a nonprofit organization based in Nashville, who run a rehabilitation program for vulnerable teens.
Law enforcement are investigating.