Shine A Light On Slavery day is a reminder to parents that harsh realities exist

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ARAB, Ala. -- Thursday is Shine A Light On Slavery day. Organizations use it as a way to raise awareness for forms of slavery around the world, including human trafficking. Unfortunately that is a reality law enforcement officials want parents to be aware of.

"We see a lot of times where older men or older individuals will befriend these young girls on Facebook and a lot of times the victim doesn't know how old the offender really is," explained Arab Police Assistant Chief Shane Washburn, "It can lead into great danger and it could lead into sex trafficking."

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world. The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force said the average age of entry into sex trafficking as a victim is 11 to 14 years old. Most are females. "Oftentimes that's how things happen. They'll get on Facebook, find these young females and befriend them, and get them to meet them or something of that nature, and once that happens they're then kidnapped or victimized in some form of a fashion," Washburn said.

The task force said it's estimated that two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute.

Huntsville sits in the middle of major cities where human trafficking is a harsh reality. The Task Force says in the Tennessee Valley, officials reported cases in Madison, DeKalb, and Marshall Counties.

Law enforcement officers said parents need to monitor their teens' and preteens' online activity. "Whether it be Facebook, any of the other apps that they may use or social media, make sure you know what your kids are doing and what they're doing online," Washburn added, "The internet is open to the whole world and we need to make sure that our kids are safe."