Sex trafficking is an international problem of monumental proportions. Women and children from Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, and Western Europe are victimized, as well as those from many other third-world countries.
It is also a problem that hits close to home in North America. The FBI estimates that more than 100,000 US children are victims of sex trafficking annually. They are cleverly lured by experienced predators with promises of modeling contracts, acting careers, opportunities for dating wealthy men, and other lucrative propositions. Once they fall victim, they are marketed as sex slaves through personal ads and dating services via the Internet.
Victims are physically and emotionally abused into submission; fear and degradation are common tactics. They are starved, bound, locked up, gang raped, beaten, held at gunpoint, and their families are threatened.
In addition to those who perpetrate these crimes, the men who purchase time with the victims are equally guilty. They contribute to a multi-million dollar industry that preys on human lives, most often those of women and children.
According to a 2003 U.S. State Department estimate, more than 800,000 human beings are bought and sold annually, and transported across borders worldwide. At least 20,000 of these people are brought into the United States yearly against their will. They typically range in age from 9 to 19, and are frequently teenage girls.
In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act became law. It was the first law of its kind to set forth guidelines to protect victims of sex crimes and to prosecute the perpetrators. It was reauthorized in 2003, 2005, and 2008, and more than $200 million was added to the program by the federal government to facilitate the prevention, protection, and prosecution of sex crimes.
More than 290,000 teenage runaways are at risk of sexual victimization; in addition, “average” teens are at risk for trafficking. Between January 2007 and September 2008, more than 1,200 cases of human trafficking were reported to the Human Trafficking Reporting System established by the US Department of Justice. Two-thirds of the victims were under age 17, and nearly 90 percent were female.
Resources for Further Education
Public awareness, education, tough laws, and rapid prosecution are a must to end this heinous activity perpetrated against humanity. Learning everything we can helps protect children from sexual victimization.
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