The Child Trafficked Next Door
As we go about our daily lives, safely ensconced in our homes or work environments with friends and family, take a moment to remember that somewhere in the world a child will be an unwilling sex slave – forced to entertain buyers as we drink coffee or text our friends. According to Polaris Project an estimated 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked yearly within the United States. Additionally, the number of American citizens trafficked is even higher. Disturbingly, the majority of trafficking victims are boys and girls. Roughly 200,000-300,000 children – yes, children – are at high risk for trafficking into the sex industry each year; and according to UNICEF, roughly 2 million minors are trafficked globally.
All of this has devastating consequences for children. Sexually trafficked minors experience long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possible death. Unfortunately, many people just do not realize or do not want to deal with the problem unless the issue has touched them personally; and governments around the world, including the US, are just starting to deal with this heinous issue. The stupefying reality is that traffickers operate with almost total impunity – everywhere. (Interpol ranks it third in worldwide criminal enterprises.)
Last year, New York City hosted an interactive exhibition depicting the harrowing stories of victims who are sexually trafficked. ‘Journey’ consisted of seven shipping containers that led the viewer along a voyeuristic odyssey of contemporary human bondage. The goal of the art installation was to show the viewer that prostitution is slavery, and that it occurs closer to where you live then you realize. Children can be recruited to work in strip clubs, to walk the streets, work for an escort service or brothel in your hometown. In the US, the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-13 years, with vulnerable youth, such as runaways or homeless minors being aggressively targeted. Furthermore, ‘Journey’ magnified the issue of the double victimization of the trafficked, since the law often treated them rather shabbily when brothels were raided. A government should ensure that sexually trafficked victims have access to primary health care, counseling, and shelter – not be treated as criminals.
So as we go about our daily routines, pause for a moment and resolve to help end this wanton destruction of human life. Push for your country to perhaps follow Sweden’s example in which the government made it a criminal charge to buy commercial sex – causing traffickers to be less willing to bring victims into a country with less demand. Continue to contact members of Congress, or your local city government, and urge them to continue to fight human trafficking on all levels.* Additionally, be more involved in your communities and report anything unusual to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-3737-888) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donate undergarments to Polaris Project for the trafficked victims (see below), or become a ‘Rescue and Restore Partner’.
What is the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Hotline?
The NHTRC Hotline is a 24-hour, 7 day a week, toll-free hotline. The Hotline number is 1-888-3737-888. NHTRC Call Specialists can connect victims with law enforcement and social service providers in their local area who can help them get out of exploitative situations and into safe environments where they have access to services, such as emotional support, health care, and legal services.
Undergarments for Victims:
For survivors of sex trafficking, underwear represents so much more than a basic need and many of Polaris Project’s clients arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Sometimes traffickers have forced women and girls to wear certain items and having the choice to wear something more modest prevents further trauma. Other times, more cute and feminine underwear makes the Polaris Project clients feel more confident about themselves and contributes to efforts in building their self-esteem. By offering a variety of styles of undergarments, you are helping to empower survivors so that they can make choices and rediscover who they are. This is an urgent need. Please help by donating bras and underwear. All donations can be mailed to:
P.O. Box 77892
Washington, DC 20013