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Sex Trafficking

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There is a growing threat to the children and youth of America, a problem unprecedented for previous generations in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The sex trafficking industry has moved into our borders and it is growing. No longer are human smugglers just bringing in kidnapped foreigners but now the emboldened traffickers will seize and coax American citizens into the trade. Now 83 percent of confirmed trafficking victim cases are Americans and the majority fall within the ages of 12-14. In 2012, the FBI estimated that 293,000 American children were at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex. Victims who have been rescued claim that whenever there is an adult sex industry children are always in it. Sadly, the statistics show that children are not a minority within this group as the FBI admitted nearly half of their cases were for children between 2008 to 2010.

A New Trade
One of the reasons this industry has grown in the United States is because gang members have turned to trafficking. It is more profitable than selling drugs and less risky. The girl trade has replaced the drug trade as the new commodity, yet the U.S. spends 300 times more money on drug trafficking than sex trafficking. Gangs can sell a girl many times in one night and use her for many years. They prey on girls who come from broken homes, suffer from self-esteem issues, and run away from home. They groom a girl by finding out what she needs and giving it to her. If she needs a place to stay or a lover, he will provide for a time before making demands. Sometimes the girl is forcibly kidnapped and violated but often the process takes time till the girl feels she owes the man who “saved” her. Victims of trafficking are weakened by fear and obligation. The ease of trafficking has been upgraded by the digital era which allows the men to locate victims and buyers.

One of the events that proliferates sex trafficking and spreads it within the United States is the Super Bowl. Sadly, local law enforcement officials have confirmed that with every Super Bowl event the host city is flooded with prostitutes and the new epicenter never sees a drop in activity after it ends. A large amount of the groups stay and continue prostitution in the new city. This is the darkest shadow that could come over any of America’s favorite past times.

A Worldwide Epidemic
Worldwide this has become a modern day slavery epidemic. The UN estimates that nearly 4 million people are trafficked each year. UNICEF estimates 50% of trafficking victims worldwide are children and two-thirds of them were forced into it. Human trafficking now brings in $10 billion a year which makes it the third highest volume criminal enterprise. $4 billion of that is directly related to the brothel industry. Children victims have high mortality rates because of poor treatment. The high orphan rates in third world countries contribute to this problem of sex slavery. Yearly there are 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across borders and they are then held against the cost of transport and kept in sexual servitude. They are often lured with trickery, false promises, or simply abducted. Drugs are used to create addictions and weaken their will to leave.

How does this end?
In order to end this problem, our education and our organizational response must increase.
Among states studied nearly half to three-fourths of the victims had been in foster homes or the welfare system. It is yet another reason to focus on this at-risk demographic. Currently, child welfare systems have protocols for abused and neglected children but are not set up to handle trafficked and exploited children. We must change our laws so trafficked and raped girls don’t end up in the juvenile system. The problem is that girls who are “caught” are not seen as the victims but rather bad girls and teenager hookers. Yet these behaviors have to be taught. No girl ever dreams of entering this lifestyle if given the opportunity to dream. No girl in the America should ever be for sale.

We must train officers to see young women as someone’s child and not a law breaker. We need to recognize that many trafficking victims have become drug addicted to cope with their abusive lifestyle and help them get clean with treatment. Ordinary citizens must learn to spot the signs of a trafficking victim and inform hotlines, organizations, and the police. It is dangerous for a person to try to immediately remove a victim both because the victim will resist out of fear and traffickers are known for extreme violence and disregard for human life.

Red Flags
Some of the red flags that help spot a victim are 1) scripted answers 2) inconsistencies in story 3) branding or tattoos that reflect ownership 4) bruising with varied stages of healing with black, blue, purple, yellow shades 5) cigarette burns, rope burns, scars, cuts, or other physical abuse 6) coming onto several men 7) appears helpless, shamed, nervous 7) malnourished 8) inability or fear to make eye contact 9) chronic runaway, homeless youth 10) dating much older abusive or controlling men 11) not attending school or has numerous school absences 12) sudden change in attire possession or behavior 13) travels to other cities frequently 14) uses terms common to the commercial sex industry. If you see 2-3 of these signs present it is best to seek help. The average life expectancy for a child forced into sexual slavery is 7 years.

We must also teach our children how to avoid being lured into these traps. Young people have to be reminded they are not invincible and their decisions will have weighty consequences. Traffickers hang out on social media, the internet, at schools, and at malls. Youth need to be educated on how these people might act and what to look for to avoid. Programs like these can be found from Traffic 911 who teach the risk signs at schools, Boys and Girls clubs, juvenile detention, youth groups, and other places.

Source: Catherine Anderson