"We have kids being seduced out of our high schools," Fr. Bayhi said, citing the case of a 17-year-old senior at a white suburban high school who trafficked two 13-year-old freshman girls.
He said traffickers can target their victims through convincing them to engage in "sexting," sending sexually explicit photos via phone.
"After that stuff gets out, these people own you," he said. Other forms of blackmail can involve drugging the victim and filming her in a compromising act.
What do trafficking victims need?
"They need a safe place to be made human again," said Fr. Bayhi. "When you're 15 years old, and you've performed 3,000 sexual favors, you're no longer a person, you're nothing more than a receptacle in your own eyes."
"Our response is the religious sisters who are there," he said. "These nuns are the heroes. How do you pay people in eight hour shifts to convince a 15-year-old who has been abused that they really love them? You can't do it. That's why the nuns are just so incredibly important to this."
The nuns of Metanoia Home will have the assistance of other professional volunteers including physicians, nurses, social workers and educators to complement their own expertise in helping victims.
"We need to get them stable, we need to get them to believe in themselves. We need to reconnect these children with God," Fr. Bayhi said, noting that the house is open to anyone regardless of religion.
The potential beneficiaries could have very different experiences. Recovery for a 17-year-old victim who was trafficked for three months will be much different than for a 14-year-old who has suffered for four years in captivity.
"We will want the children to finally have someone in their life that we trust," said the priest. Metanoia Home aims to help victims recover from their experience and re-integrate into society.
Increasing efforts are being made to work against human trafficking in Louisiana. Anti-trafficking programs in the state include special training for police officers to help them recognize victims of sex traffickers, rather than treat them as criminals. Fr. Bayhi praised the collaborative work between legislators, the governor, law enforcement, members of the judiciary and state agencies.
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Last year, a delegation of Louisiana anti-trafficking leaders attended Pope Francis' Wednesday general audience, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards led the delegation, which included Fr. Bayhi.
"It's really a tragic circumstance and we have to really do much better in Louisiana and around the country," Gov. Edwards told Vatican Radio at the time.
Father Bayhi told CNA that the delegation had a very brief moment with Pope Francis, who thanked them and encouraged them to continue. The delegation spent considerable time with Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, whom Fr. Bayhi described as the Pope's anti-trafficking point man.
The priest commented on inhuman trends in society that he sees as creating a breeding ground for trafficking.
"The sad fact is, there's a market," he said. Older men seek out little girls or boys as young as 12.
"One of the things I think you have to understand: human trafficking is not a problem. Human trafficking is a symptom," he added. "We live in a society where we determine who has the right to be born. We live in a society where we get to decide who dies and when, with our elderly. And now there's some recent things about Planned Parenthood, we're talking about selling baby parts and making $52,000/week on baby parts."