It is most likely happening in the city you live in. It may be happening in your neighborhood. It might even be happening to someone you know.
Child Sex Trafficking.
According to EPCAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) Children as young as 12 years of age, and even younger, are being forced to perform sexual acts for commercial reasons. Furthermore, Dr. Kaylani Gopal, the founder and president of the SAFE Coalition for Human Rights (SAFECHR) that the youngest victim she has worked with "was four years old and a female. The youngest male was six years old. These small children were made to perform "tricks" on one another in order to "entertain" adults in exchange for $10 that their parents would receive."
Just how large a problem is this in the United States? 300,000 children in the United States are prostituted each year; are victims of child sex trafficking. Child pornography has found a welcome home on the internet, as well, and is in truth a multi-billion dollar online industry, with over 100,000 sites dedicated to the crime, and is one of the fastest growing online businesses.
Most youth who fall victim to prostitution today come from environments where they have already been sexually abuse. To be sure, the majority of children in America who are exploited sexually have already endured a life of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. Indeed, the contributor to a child entering into a life of child sex trafficking is a prior life of sexual abuse. Along with this, many of these children who have already been exposed to sexual abuse have problems with low self-esteem, and do not receive the educational opportunities they deserve. For some teens who have suffered abuse from the hands of family members, they may seek escape by running away from home. As a result, they are more likely to end up homeless, and may choose a life style of prostitution in order to "make ends meet," financially, so to speak. These youth are more inclined to be placed into foster homes or group homes, and are also more likely to run away. Pimps also attract children by targeting them in group homes, promising them gifts, a sense of belonging, and a place where they will be loved, as well as encouraging them with presents and gifts, all while grooming them for a life of prostitution.
Here are 5 ways that each of us can bring an end to child sex trafficking.
The more knowledge one has about what child sex trafficking is, the better prepared and equipped one is to stop it. Educate yourself about child sex trafficking. Read books and articles, watch videos, listen to experts.
2. RecognizeThe Signs
Whether it is at an airport, a bus station, near a hotel, a nail salon, at a large sporting event, you might pass by a victim of child sex trafficking and not realize it. When you are able to recognize what a victim looks like, you can better help them.
3. Report Any Suspicions
Uber driver Keith Avila called police after he became suspicious that one of the passengers in his car was a victim of child sex trafficking. His alertness and his phone call rescued a 16 year old girl from sex trafficking. When you see any suspicious activity you believe may be related to child sex trafficking, make that phone call to 911, or call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888.
4. Raise Awareness
Raise awareness with those you know, whether it is within your circle of friends and family, local churches and faith based groups, your work environment, and even with your local politicians and legislators. Ensure that schools in your area are also aware of child sex trafficking, and how children within their own schools may be potential victims.
5. Take Action
Become an advocate about child sex trafficking. Speak out about the issue to others within the circles you are associated with. Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, and to politicians. Encourage your state legislatures to continue to address this issue. Become involved in anti-trafficking efforts where you live, and in your own city and community.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 14 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including The Foster Parenting Manual, and writes for several publications, including Fostering Families Today. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.