America’s Trafficked Children Are Being Arrested, Not Rescued

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This was the topic of an unprecedented congressional briefing on Capitol Hill that took place yesterday.  Co- sponsored by the Caucus on Victims’ Rights and the Caucus on Human Trafficking, Congressman Chris Smith, Congressman Ted Poe, and Congressman  Jim Costa were attentively listening to the challenges and recommendations of the panelists in addressing child sex slavery in America.  In addition to the Congressman in attendance – the room was packed with nearly 80 congressional staffers and professionals.  A clear message was sent that we are concerned about every victim exploited through the crime of human trafficking and that includes hundreds of thousands of American kids – every year.

The congressional briefing was spurred by the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America’s Prostituted Children written by Shared Hope International.  The report reveals the shocking findings of three years of intensive research on the issue of child sex trafficking in America from ten locations across the U.S.  While the research locations ranged from areas as diverse as Salt Lake City, Utah to Clearwater, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada the findings were hauntingly similar – underage American girls are the bulk of victims in commercial sex markets and are too often being arrested rather than rescued.  Additionally, nearly every interview revealed that American child sex trafficking victims were being misidentified or not identified at all by Child Protective Services and social service providers who are responsible for providing proper treatment and care.  The arrest and lack of specialized services for these children is causing revictimization.

Important key findings:

  • At least 100,000 children are used in prostitution every year in the United States.
  • The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old.
  • Prostituted girls are often controlled by a pimp who recruits them into sex trafficking by posing as a boyfriend, caretaker, and protector.
  • The 3 primary manifestations of child sex trafficking in America is: pimp-controlled prostitution, familial prostitution, and/or survival sex.
  • The business of sex trafficking of America’s youth is flourishing as demand for commercial sex with young, innocent girls and boys continues to occur with little and low punishment.
  • Child sexual slavery is fueled by a cultural of tolerance which glorifies pimping and normalizes the sexual exploitation of children.

 

Domestic minor sex trafficking is a serious problem in the U.S., and one that will not be solved overnight.  But the first step is admitting to ourselves that it’s not just foreign kids who are vulnerable- it’s our kids.  And this report is the first step to learning to admit that.

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