Eighteen-year-old Hannah Graham is not the first girl to vanish in America without a trace--my hometown of Charlottesville, Va., has had five women go missing over the span of five years--and it is doubtful she will be the last. I say doubtful because America is in the grip of a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.
This is America's dirty little secret.
You don't hear much about domestic sex trafficking from the media or government officials, and yet it infects suburbs, cities and towns across the nation. The fastest growing business in organized crime, sex trafficking revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.
With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that's going away anytime soon.
Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry. It is estimated that at least 100,000 children--girls and boys--are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year.
With such numbers, why don't we hear more about this? Especially if, as Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children insists, "this is not a problem that only happens in New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco. This happens in smaller communities. The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it."
Writing for the Herald-Tribune, reporter J. David McSwane has put together one of the most chilling and insightful investigative reports into sex trafficking in America. "The Stolen Ones" should be mandatory reading for every American, especially those who still believe it can't happen in their communities or to their children.
As McSwane makes clear, no community is safe from this danger, and yet very little is being done to combat it. Indeed, although police agencies across the country receive billions of dollars' worth of military equipment, weapons and training that keeps them busy fighting a losing battle against marijuana, among other less pressing concerns, very little time and money is being invested in the fight against sex trafficking.
For those trafficked, it's a nightmare from beginning to end. Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed. A common thread woven through most survivors' experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men.
One particular sex trafficking ring that was busted earlier in 2014 caters specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it's a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.
What can you do?
Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.
Insist that law enforcement agencies in the country at all levels, local, state and federal, funnel their resources into fighting the crime of sex trafficking.
Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities. Sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture--what is often referred to as the pornification of America--and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.
Stop feeding the monster. The U.S. is a huge consumer of trafficked "goods," with national sporting events such as the Super Bowl serving as backdrops for the sex industry's most lucrative seasons.
Finally, the police need to do a better job of training on, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and "johns," the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds; and "we the people" need to stop hiding our heads in the sand and acting as if there are other matters more pressing.
Those concerned about the police state in America, which I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, should be equally concerned about the sex trafficking trade in America. It is only made possible by the police state's complicity in turning average Americans into suspects for minor violations while letting the real criminals wreak havoc on our communities. No doubt about it, these are two sides of the same coin.