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 for the first time in the 2010 U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report.
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
- Shared Hope International
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.
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 these proposals in Congress and urge your two U.S. Senators to support them.
- Senate Bill 1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011, which aims to coordinate federal anti-trafficking programs and emphasizes a victim-centered approach.
- Senate Bill 596, the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2011, is focused on young people such as providing shelter to victims of trafficking,mental health counseling, legal services, and education programs. This federal legislation would require that states treat minors who have been trafficked as victims of crime rather than criminal defendants or juvenile delinquents. It would require additional punishment for those engaged in sex trafficking of minors and other child abuse crimes.