WASHINGTON — Actress Demi Moore on Tuesday said sex trafficking of U.S. children is a domestic issue that should be viewed with a greater sense of urgency.
"I think many Americans are more willing to accept that there are girls enslaved in Cambodia or Delhi, and really can't imagine that it's happening right here," Moore said during a panel discussion on the issue at the U.S. Capitol.
Moore said American girls are being bought and sold every day in the U.S. by people who are rarely prosecuted. "It's more profitable and less risky to sell a girl than drugs," she said.
One 17-year-old girl who took part in the discussion with Moore recalled how she was lured into prostitution and sex trafficking at age 11 by a 28-year-old man who took her shopping.
Moore said people are too quick to buy into the myths that young girls are choosing to become prostitutes.
"Demand for prostitution fuels sex trafficking," Moore said. "And I think clearly our system isn't working."
A Justice Department official on Tuesday's panel said task forces made up of federal, state and local investigators have arrested and prosecuted hundreds of people responsible for the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
But Francey Hakes, the agency's national coordinator for child exploitation prevention, said a lack of coordination could be a problem for law enforcement. Hakes said the department was working to enhance its strategy to address sex crimes against children.
Moore and her husband – Ashton Kutcher – recently started the Demi and Ashton Foundation to bring attention to the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The panel discussion was organized by the foundation and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights.
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