Sunday, June 21, 2009

Born and Sold in the U.S. of A

I don't normally consider myself to be a political blogger, but I have recently gotten more information about sex trafficking and prostitution of children in the United States. For many years this has been a headline issue, mostly abroad, places like Bangkok come to mind, but how common is this same crime here in this country? Here are some facts from Shared Hope International, an organization working to save these girls from lives of prostitution and destitution:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice states that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.
  • Exploited children are often labeled "child prostitutes" and punished for the crime that is committed against them. While exploited children are often arrested for prostitution, their buyers and traffickers go largely unpunished.
  • Shared Hope International's field research confirmed that underage girls are the bulk of victims in commercial sex markets, including pornography, stripping, escort services, and prostitution.
  • The prostitution of American children is a nationwide problem. SHI's assessment of the city of Las Vegas reports that 1,496 children from 40 states were trafficked into and arrested for prostitution in Clark County Nevada between January 1994 to July 2007.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice states that at least 75% of minors exploited through prostitution are controlled by a pimp, using violence and psychological torture to hold the victims in bondage.
  • There is a severe lack of protective shelter for child victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. In the 10 U.S. locations assessed by Shared Hope, just one protection facility was identified, the Letot Center in Dallas. Texas.

As Americans we are often horrified to discover that families in poor countries, desperate for food or protection will sell their daughters into prostitution. Some families believe that they are paving the way for a better life for their daughters, once they have done their stint "working," they will be able to move on and build better lives for themselves away from the grinding poverty of their countries of origin. When I read about this same thing happening here, I have to wonder"why?" The United States supposedly has more money and resources than any other country on earth and yet we have what is often considered to be a "Third World Problem" festering on our own soil. Is it because the lives of girls are not valued? Is it because the men who pay for these services have enough money and power to keep them going? When I read through the literature, I got the distinct impression that we as a society still tend to "blame the victim" for this one. It is a true example of repressed American provincial sexual attitude if there ever was one. Obviously these young girls need our help. While helping to stop sex trafficking abroad is a very important issue, I think more Americans need to open their eyes and hearts to what is going on right here on our red, white, and blue doorstep.

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