Sex trafficking a problem in Kitsap, speaker says

Perpetrators of crime are often people in positions of authority, says Sandy Hill

CENTRAL KITSAP — The illegal abuse of children in the sex trafficking industry is a problem in Kitsap County. It’s an issue that Kitsap anti-trafficking activist Sandy Hill would like to see ended forever.

“Our children are a target,” Hill said as she spoke at a meeting of the Silverdale-Seabeck Republican Women in Central Kitsap March 28.

Hill said most victims were girls ages 14-16 who had been tricked or forced into the sex trade. Sex traffickers would sell the girls to “buyers” and give the girls money, drugs or shelter.

According to Shared Hope, a group that works to prevent the conditions that foster sex trafficking, 100,000 children are abused by sex traffickers in the U.S. every year. “Buyers” in the sex trafficking industry fuel demand by paying traffickers to supply victims. Factors that make children susceptible include low self esteem, being abused or neglected, poverty, homelessness and identifying as LGBT, according to Shared Hope.

Shared Hope states that trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force fraud or coercion if the victim is 18 or older, or regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion if the victim is a minor.

Traffickers locate victims primarily through social networks or their home neighborhood and promise love, protection or opportunity. Traffickers use fear, violence and threats to coerce victims.

Hill showed a video called “Chosen” that told the story of two Washington girls who wound up involved in the sex trade. One of the girls, Brianna, was working at a restaurant in a small town when a charming 24-year-old man chatted her up.

“He was so smooth and came off so sincere and genuine,” Brianna said in the video. A common tactic used by traffickers is to pass themselves off as the “older boyfriend” type. The man talked Brianna into briefly working at a Seattle strip club.

“I felt kind of gross that I was even in there,” Brianna said. She said she was offered money for sex. Brianna and the man planned to move to Arizona, but Brianna spoke with a former boyfriend who was concerned about her and Brianna later realized she was being groomed for trafficking.

“I didn’t know about sex trafficking until I was in the middle of it,” Brianna said. Girls caught up in trafficking often cannot see a safe way out. Brianna, however, is now doing well and has since graduated and is working as a nurse, Hill said.

Hill said “buyers” often hold positions of authority in the community.

“They are husbands, they’re fathers,” Hill said. They can be doctors, lawyers or pastors.

Or firefighters: In February, a Central Kitsap firefighter named Kevin Best, 42, was arrested by undercover detectives from Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task after Best allegedly intended to meet a minor girl for sex. He is currently in the Snohomish County jail on $500,000 bail.

Hill said when investigators set up stings, “it is common to have hundreds of buyers interested in buying our children.”

Traffickers are manipulative. Shared Hope advises people to watch out if their friend or loved one becomes involved with someone who:

• Becomes jealous easily, seems controlling or exhibits violence;

• Is significantly older than the other person;

• Promises things that seem too good to be true;

• Encourages engaging in illegal activities to achieve goals or dreams;

• Suggests they know how to help someone make a lot of money;

• Buys expensive gifts or likes to flash their money;

• Is vague about his or her profession;

• Is pushy or demanding about sex;

• Wants to take suggestive photographs and encourages modeling or dancing for money;

• Makes one feel responsible for his or her financial stability.

Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit for assistance.

Hill runs a website on the issue, Learn more about Shared Hope at