By Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News
"When someone goes missing in Hawaii, local activist Ihilani Lasconia says that many in the island's Native communities first suspect one thing: sex trafficking.
'Everybody knows that it's happening, everybody knows that it's a problem,' said Lasconia, an advocate for the feminist group AF3IRM. 'It's been so normalized -- with over 100 years of colonization -- so people feel defeated and don't have the vocabulary to articulate these experiences.'
A new task force created by the state House aims to gather data on the number of missing Native Hawaiian women, and the impact of sex trafficking on Native populations on the islands.
Women and children in Hawaii are facing a widespread epidemic of violence and sex trafficking, according to House documents.
The task force is being led by the Hawaii State Commission on the State of Women and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs -- and is backed by state agencies, local authorities and other activist groups.
Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Hawaii State Commission on the State of Women, said that 'if there's no data, there's no problem.'
That's why she and her team are researching the concrete numbers of how many women and girls may be missing or being sex trafficked in the state.
The few figures that exist, like research from the commission and Arizona State University, suggest that Native Hawaiian women are disproportionately represented among sex trafficking victims in the state.
Sixty-four percent of the sex trafficking victims identified in the commission's 2020 study identified as having Native Hawaiian ancestry.
The report reads: 'The overutilization of Native Hawaiians to meet sex buyer demand may be directly linked to structural economic coercion and vulnerabilities connected to land dispossession, exposure to sexual violence, hypersexualization, incarceration, cultural dislocation, intergenerational trauma, mental and emotional distress, racism, poverty, and going inequities.'"