Each year up to 50,000 women and girls in the United States are victims of sex trafficking. Two-thirds of these people are female youths between the ages of 12 and 14.
Tens of thousands of vulnerable children are subjected to forced sexual exploitation in the United States. These innocents are unwillingly dragged into an illegal underworld that profits from morally destitute acts of sexual exploitation. Opposed to common trafficking misconceptions, most perpetrators don’t resort to physical kidnappings. Alternatively, they employ psychological tactics to trick, defraud, and manipulate potential victims. Sexual predators are so adept at conditioning victims; often mistreated children can no longer identify themselves as being in a position of subservience to another person.
Astoundingly a 2014 study of sex trafficking in major U.S cities found that revenues from underground commercial sex were often in excess of $300 million. In Atlanta and Miami, the combined revenue flows of illegal drugs and guns didn’t surpass the value of their black market sex economy.
All 50 U.S states have legislation that covers child sex trafficking yet this problem proliferates across the entire nation. Non-profit NGO, Shared Hope International (SHI) has announced via its annual State Report Card that children in 31 states can be criminally prosecuted under prostitution laws for the acts they are forced to commit. At the National Foundation for Women Legislators, SHI founder Linda Smith scalded the criminalisation of child survivors declaring “Domestic minors are twice condemned: first by sex buyers and the voracious commercial sex trade, then by the juvenile justice system.”
Presently a broad community consensus of understanding about child sex trafficking, its causes, warning signals, prevalence, and support mechanisms is grossly underwhelming. It’s important to recognise that victims don’t have any singular profile uniformity. Abused minors come from rural, suburban, and urban communities and have large socio-economic disparities. 50% of harmed children are American born and 60% of them have been through the foster care industry according to the U.S Institute Against Human Trafficking. However, surprisingly victims also come from what is considered ‘good’ families and are lured in by cunning predators.
One 15-year-old girl ‘Sally’ (Pseudonym) was one of many young American girls to be abducted. Snatched from her Phoenix homes driveway Sally was held at gunpoint and restrained with tape and taken to an apartment 40 kilometres from her home. The captors laughingly teased Sally with threats of murder before drugging and gang-raping her. This grotesque case is particularly revolting but also uncommon. Children are at most risk to be taken advantage of by people they know.
For the sake of the half a million children who go missing annually it’s paramount that as a society we are aware of some critical warning signs. Some red flags include children not attending school, domineering adults, evidence of bruises, and a refusal to communicate. Other signs include running away for multiple nights, possessing hotel keys, prepaid phones, and having unusually large sums of cash or expensive gifts.
Today social media platforms are the most common tool used by paedophiles for recruitment. However, truck stops, motels, and illicit massage businesses are also common hives for their activity. To support the fight against child sex trafficking, provide detailed tips to hotlines, donate to organisations that help victims recover, and lobby for change.
“You can recognize survivors of abuse by their courage. When silence is so very inviting, they step forward and share their truth so others know they aren’t alone.”
― Jeanne McElvaney
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