Sex Trafficking – Get the facts

Friday, June 13, 2014
posted by elizabeth @ 2:14 PM

The average age of a victim of sex trafficking in the United States is twelve years old.  Twelve.  Does that make you sick?  It should.   Sex Trafficking is the fastest growing enterprise of organized crime.  And, according to estimates, less than 1 percent of all trafficking victims are ever rescued!  Fortunately, a great amount of time, attention, and resources are being dedicated to this horrific problem.  In March, Congressman Michael McCaul, Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, held a field hearing in Houston on sex trafficking; and this past week, a state-wide coalition of law enforcement agents,  victims’ rights organizations, and  government officials launched a state wide campaign to combat sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking is the market-driven industry of forced enslavement and prostitution of young girls and boys.  We tend to think of the victims as girls, but according to a 2008 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in fact, boys comprised about 50 percent of sexually exploited children. 

While victims do come from overseas, many victims can come right from our backyard.  Literally.  Perpetrators prey on youths in places like the mall.  And, malls in good neighborhoods, too.  The Woodlands.  Memorial City.  The Galleria.  Kids who are educated and uneducated.  Kids from good families and at risk families.    No one is exempt.  These perps look for girls and boys who may be shy or vulnerable. They will look for conversation pieces, such as the concert t-shirt the child is wearing, or they may simply compliment their hair.  The perp knows right away if he can walk out of the mall with that child or not.  Once a rapport is created and the girl willingly walks out the door with him, she’ll get into his car.  And she’s gone.  She’ll be driven to another state, held in an unsuspecting home or business.    This makes it extremely difficult for families to find them.   It’s horrible.

Runaways are another vulnerable population and easy target for these pimps.  In 2013, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 1 out of 7 runaways were likely child sex trafficking victims.  The Center also estimates that there are 100,000 youths under the age of 18 in the commercial sex trade in the U.S.   And, by about18 years old, victims have basically “aged out” of the sex trafficking system.  Where do the kids go with no skills, poor health, no education, and a feeling of no hope? 

These perps also prey on youths from overseas looking for a better life.   Many youths come from Mexico, Central America, and Asia.  While California has the largest amount of sex trafficking, Texas is second.  And, Houston is a major hub due to our interstates, international airport, port, and proximity to the border.

Where do we go from here?  We do have solid laws on the books giving law enforcement, prosecutors, and state and federal agencies the tools and power to act.  Our law enforcement is vigilant in prosecuting the perpetrators (both pimps and johns), but the bad guys have to be located and arrested first.   The victims are almost always afraid to speak up.  The pimps use physical force, fraudulent promises, and coercion to create unfathomable fear. Furthermore, these pimps move the victims around, too, abandoning detected locations or creating “delivery” systems.   

Currently, federal legislation for the victims is pending.  The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (H.R. 3530), authored by Congressman Ted Poe, provides federal grants for law enforcement, prosecution, and services and treatment for victims.  S. 1738 is the identical companion in the Senate, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn.  The legislation passed the House on May 20th, but no action has occurred or is scheduled at this time in the Senate. 

While both of these sponsors are Republicans, the issue of human trafficking is bi-partisan.  Both Democrats and Republicans support the end to these disgusting crimes. The momentum is strong right now to stop these predators, and help our children by providing temporary beds and transition back to society.   It’s our job to help the victims and stop the market-driven demand.   Like illegal drugs, until demand is stopped, supply will continue.  Let’s help stop these disgusting crimes.

-Elizabeth Biar

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