Finally, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof reports on U.S. teenagers being sold for sex -- sex trafficking in America.
In today's New York Times op-ed (Thursday, April 19, 2012), Kristof reveals "Not Quite a Teen, Yet Sold for Sex" that the child sex trade or child sex slavery (as the "abolitionists" refer to it), is alive and kicking in the United States. More importantly, it is in happening to hundreds of thousands of runaway American kids everywhere in the States including New York City.
After years reporting about sex trade in the Huffington Post, this extraordinary and unusually closeted crime has finally made the Op-Ed of the New York Times. According to several media reports including the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP report), the U.S. is the number one destination country in the world for child sex trafficking and New York City is the #1 city in the U.S. for child sex trafficking which implies that at the advent of the twenty-first century, New York City is the #1 city in the world for child sex trafficking.
How can this be? And why is this not being reported openly and discussed between our three branches of government more transparently?
For one reason, we don't have hard numbers and so the budgets and resources afforded law enforcement agents and agencies in order to prevent, protect (also identify) and prosecute sex traffickers are scarce. Secondly, our first line of defense i.e., every police department in the nation, is hard pressed to a) identify the underage victims of sex trafficking b) charge the sex traffickers under sex trafficking legislation (there is none for domestic sex traffickers). Thirdly, it is very challenging for prosecutors (DAs), to obtain a conviction for all the obvious reasons: lack of witnesses, lack of resources, lack of training, credibility of victims since the onus today falls on the victims and not sex traffickers to prove beyond reasonable doubt this offense.
Kristof goes on to mention Backpage, a social network site, as I wrote about the other day "Backpage Not Complying With Requests to Help Stop Sex Trafficking," similar to Craigslist advertising the selling of sex by teenagers in its personal ad space.
I am very grateful to Kristof for bringing this issue to light; especially in mainstream media, since the Huffington Post, for some strange reason, is not considered mainstream.
According to Kristof's column, the victim a 16-year-old New York City poet, "Brianna" and runaway wanted "to teach her mother a lesson." As fate would have it, the lesson was on her. One evening, when Brianna was 12 years old she had a fight with her mother and ran away to join her friends. That night she decided to stay at a friend's older brother's home. The next morning, he wouldn't allow her to leave. The young man told her he was a pimp and that "Brianna" was now "his property." He locked her inside his house and physically abused her. He did so repeatedly yet throughout her ordeal he also did the one thing that all pimps do to their vulnerable victims in order to keep them "hooked" -- he showed her affection.
In the meantime, the pimp advertised her services on Backpage.com, today's leading U.S. website for sex trafficking. Brianna told Kristof that her pimp believed "Backpage made him the most money" and according to her pimp, "half of his business came through Backpage."
"Brianna" is one of the lucky few. She managed to escape after years of fighting her fear and ran away to a treatment center outside of New York City called Gateways. Gateways, has only 13 beds according to Kristof- another important topic when trying to solve the housing dilemma for runaway domestic victims of the sex slave trade.
Reporting on Backpage, Kristof quoted the AIM figures I reported on in my last Huff Post blog which confirms Backpage prostitution ads account for roughly between 70-85% of America's online prostitution ads. Pretty hefty figure if you ask me.
In the meantime, Brianna is one of one hundred thousand American girls see Huffington Post "Congress Confirms Over 100,000 Americans Girls Being Exploited Through Commercial Sex," that according to Congress are trafficked for sex every year.
As much as Kristof, myself, and other leading voices working in this field, can raise awareness of this twenty-first century plague, it is not enough. We need entire communities-across the country -- to rise up and speak against this new form of sex slavery so that it becomes politicized like AIDS. If it manages to get on the national agenda or become a politician's platform then and only then will our three branches of government feel the fire to commit the resources towards those organizations in the U.S. working to prevent, protect and rehabilitate the victims of sex slavery and prosecute domestic child sex traffickers.