It’s another horrendous spinoff of the opioid epidemic.

Addiction plays into the hands of sex traffickers.

And it is more extensive than anyone realizes.

At the Wheeling YWCA, officials say three-quarters of the women who come in for their services have been trafficked in one way or another.

Traffickers prey on addicted women, withholding the drugs they crave until they carry out the sexual acts that the traffickers—and their clients—demand.

They also control them by withholding pay or access to their children.

“People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol oftentimes are willing participants in the beginning,” noted Shannalee Kuri, WIND Program coordinator at the YWCA. “And then before they know it, they’ve gotten themselves into something that they can’t necessarily get out of.  Maybe they don’t have money or means to be able to get their substance.”

“These individuals can actually groom your teenagers on social media,” noted Laura Albertini Weigel, director of the WIND program. “They get them very comfortable and trusting without them even knowing, and eventually there is some kind of meeting and it typically spirals from there.”

The Wheeling YWCA has help for trafficking victims.

It’s called STEP—Survivors of Trafficking Empowerment Program.

For more information, call (740) 232-0511.