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Analysis: UMKC Student’s Alleged Sex Trafficking Incident Should be a Wake up Call

When young women go to college, they should not have to worry about never seeing their families again.

Courtney Good

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Moving to college is meant to be an exciting time. The first day of school is around the corner, freshmen take in a healthy dose of independence, and upperclassmen reminisce and meet up with old friends. Those four years should be about taking risks, spending long nights in the library, or even falling in love. When young women go to college, they should not have to worry about never seeing their families again.

Hundreds of thousands of women and children are enslaved by human sex traffickers in the United States. One day these people were making goals and living their dreams for life, and the next, they were snatched against their will. Sex traffickers are littered around college campuses in the U.S., hoping to prey on young college women who are alone in a new place for the first time. The predators hide out in department stores, malls and grocery stores and try to lure women to sex slavery.

Earlier this month, nineteen-year-old UMKC student, Makenzie Kleist and her sister were driving from their home in Illinois to college when they were allegedly pursued by sex traffickers. Kleist tweeted about her story to raise awareness as it was the countless other social media warnings about human sex trafficking signs that saved her life.

While on Highway 36, a black Nissan pulled closely behind the young women. The car was dangerously close to the rear of their car, so Kleist decided to slow down to let the man pass. That is when she saw that he was on the phone and the car had no license plates. Her suspicions grew, so Kleist increased her speed to over 90mph and the Nissan would not leave the rear of her car. He followed them this way for over 50 miles according to Kliest.

She suspected she and her sister were being targeting and the man was a human sex trafficker as she had heard about from friends and neighbors. Kleist called her father, a police officer, who was driving farther behind the girls with a trailer of Kleist’s apartment furniture. He advised her to pretend to be on the phone, get a thorough description of his appearance, and pull off on the Macon exit.

When Kleist exited the highway, the Nissan continued to follow them and suddenly, a black Chevy pickup truck without license plates pulled in front of her car abruptly. The car cut her off when she tried to change lanes, and Kleist realized they might be trying to stage an accident so that they could abduct the young women. Kleist jumped into action and sped the car up to 100mph and finally broke free of the trap and was able to call 911.

The female police officer showed concern and revealed that there was a great deal of suspicious behavior occurring on the highway. Before Kleist’s encounter, a man was reported following young girls into a McDonald’s bathroom at the same rest stop that Kleist visited before being pursued. In a statement from the Macon Police Dapartment, officers seemed to brush off the predatory actions and concluded that the men may have been trying to follow her closely to take advantage of her speeding. Kleist was frustrated by the officials’ lack of consideration for her protection, so she took to social media.

Without claiming that it was certainly human sex trafficking, Kleist explained her side of the story and that the details of the event matched those of other cases of mysterious men in cars on Highway 36 preying on young girls. Her motive was to warn people about local sex trafficking to ensure safety. She gave the advice, “They are looking for just women so try to not drive alone if possible. If you see cars with no plates acting suspicious either call someone or pretend to, they’ll get scared. Only ever pull off at a popular exist and go directly inside a busy place.”

The vast majority of southern colleges are targeted by human sex traffickers and officers seem to be brushing it off. Is it because the predators are commonly white men and the victims are women? Will human sex trafficking follow suit with the sexism that corresponds with rape cases? Women and children need the police and government officials to wake up and take serious action against sexual enslavement. Make a change for human rights, now.

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I am a University of Kentucky rising senior English major and journalism minor from upstate New York. The adult world is approaching fast, and I plan to conquer it with a cup of coffee in my hand.

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