Humane: Do Some Good
The War on Children
Illegal profiteering has taken a new twist. Now you can make more money trafficking children as sex slaves than selling drugs. Dope dealers across America and around the world are remapping their sales routes. No need to do business out in the open on street corners anymore with guys passing money and dope like nobody’s looking. The war on drugs has shifted to the war on children. Behind closed doors in motel rooms scattered along highways, in hotels throughout urban neighborhoods, and quite possibly down the street from where you live, children have become the drug of choice, their small bodies providing a continual source of pleasure as sex slaves.
A few months ago I heard a lecture by Kathy Wilson, Director of New Day for Children, an organization that rescues and provides for the needs of American girls and boys ages ten to eighteen suffering from the desperation of human trafficking.
Ms. Wilson began her presentation by discussing the need to define the problem as it should be emphasized: as a problem of slavery, not as an issue of choice. Approximately 300,000 children are trafficked in the United States annually (an accurate estimate is difficult to make). 95% are girls. The average age is twelve years old. Some have been sold into slavery by their parents, some have been kidnapped, and some are runaways. You might be shocked to learn that just last year, a three-year-old girl was sold by her mother to a trafficker in Emeryville, California. Sadly, this was not so shocking to the local law enforcement agencies that have to deal with this issue daily. The West Coast is king of sex trafficking in America and the Bay Area is its throne. Wilson gave us some good news, though, Oakland has stepped up to become the loudest voice in addressing this issue in America. I felt heartened. Right here at the epicenter is where the most noise should be made to stop these atrocities.
Other shocking statistics came forward as Wilson continued her presentation. The profit margins for the child sex market have widened significantly in the past few years. The article in Vanity Fair on May 24, 2011 put it in painful perspective, “A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10-15 times a day - and a ‘righteous’ pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings.” The average pimp in America hauls in over $35,000 per week. The young girls are held as slaves, given very little to eat, living in squalor, and often physically forced into lives as drug addicts.
Wilson then made the statement that seemed obvious, but she felt necessary to say, “These girls do not choose this life.” She told us of a girl who tried to escape many times from her captors. The pimps decided to make an example of her for the others as they had her dragged outside their van along Highway 24 near the Caldecott Tunnel. An off-duty first responder happened to see what was going on and rescued her. What does rescue look like in America for these victims? Wilson told us that in most locales, rescue means criminalization: jail time in juvenile hall. There are no other facilities available. New Day for Children is one of a handful of organizations that are set up to help these girls build a new life.
Questions from the audience included one about the prosecution of buyers in the sex trade. Wilson responded by saying that this is an industry driven by supply and demand. She mentioned that Sweden passed a law in 1999 to curtail demand by going after the buyers with fines and jail terms. Prostitution and human trafficking in Sweden has nearly been eradicated simply because the market conditions have become less lucrative as a result of diminishing demand. Buyers actually fear prosecution and demand that pimps protect their privacy. Rather than put up with such hassles, the pimps have left Sweden for more comfortable jurisdictions.
You can download the report, “The Swedish Law That Prohibits the Purchase of Sexual Services.” I learned about international law and the rights of women and children. By the way, the Swedish law was introduced, advocated, lobbied, and written by The Swedish Women’s Movement. They took on any lack of political will among the men and got it done.
For more information and to find ways that you can help, check out The Polaris Project, a national organization in Washington, DC, working to stop human trafficking.
For a recent news article on the rise in child sex trafficking in America, here is an article in the Washington Post.