Imagine you are a 13-year old girl. You do normal 13-year-old girl things: go to school, hang out with friends, fight with your mom. Then one day you meet an older guy who promises to shower you with gifts and help you fulfill your dreams in the big city. You trust him and run away from your family and friends to a strange place, and he starts telling you need to start working, need to make money so you can be happy together. Before you know it you are sucked into the world of forced prostitution and sex trafficking. All your money goes to your pimp, whom you thought loved you, so there is no escape, no way to get back the normal 13-year-old life you left behind.
When Americans think of sex trafficking, they think of young girls in Thailand and Cambodia being sold into the sex trade industry. What they don’t realize is this form of modern day slavery is happening in our very own backyards. Every day thousands of girls are kidnapped or manipulated into child prostitution in Atlanta, Phoenix and dozens of other cities.
Sex trafficking is catching up to drug trafficking as one of the biggest crimes worldwide. In the United States, prostitutes are seen as criminals not victims. Instead of helping these young girls escape their pimps, our laws prosecute them, while their traffickers go free. The law says that any prostitution of minors automatically violates federal anti-trafficking laws; however, more often girls selling sex are seen as criminals even if they are only 12 years old. This exploitation is growing: the United States was ranked in the 2012 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report. By the end of the reporting period, all states but Wyoming had enacted anti-trafficking statutes. All 50 states prohibit the prostitution of minors under state and local laws that predate the TVPA. Yet, “federal and state worksite inspectors lacked sufficient resources and training to increase victim identification appreciably, and NGOs reported that victim funding levels were inadequate to provide comprehensive longterm victim care and key legal services,” which indicates that even if states have the best intentions for victims of sex trafficking in mind, they can’t provide the resources and services necessary to truly help.
Call to Action
Visit these websites for more information. These organizations are working towards eliminating sex trafficking not only in the United States but worldwide.
- National Crittenton Foundation
- Teens on Trafficking
- Polaris Project
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center
- Rebecca Project for Human Rights
- Enslaved in America
- Shared Hope International
- Not For Sale
- Fact Sheet: the Obama Administration Announces Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking at Home and Abroad
- Obama Administration Accomplishments on Combating Trafficking in Persons as of February 2013
Watch these videos
- Sign petitions and inform others of the atrocity of sex trafficking that is happening in the very cities they have lived in for years. Don’t be scared to start discussions on Facebook and Twitter, write blogs and get your voice out there.
- Plan an event on January 11, the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness.
Visit the Polaris Project and see how your state ranks on human trafficking laws, then write your state legislature urging them to support stronger regulations and prosecution of sex traffickers, and more support for sex trafficking victims.
Contact your state lawmakers and ask them to look at the new law passed by the Georgia State Legislature against sex trafficking. Instead of arresting girls, this new law imposes a 25-year minimum sentence for those convicted of trafficking someone under the age of 18, and at least 5 years jail time for those paying for sex with a 16-year-old and at least 10 years behind for those trying to have sex with someone younger than 16. A key advocate for this state law was Keisha Head, who was lured into prostitution at the age of 16 after she ran away from home and could not escape from the pimp.
Check out H.R. 1732, Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Human Trafficking Act of 2013. If passed, it will amend the Social Security Act to better enable State child welfare agencies to prevent human trafficking of children and serve the needs of children who are victims of human trafficking. Consider writing to your U.S. Representative about this piece of legislation.