WARNING: The following post has some very serious content. If you are easily offended, read it anyway - it could wake you up to the issue of sexual of minors in America. As a father of two daughters, the issue of sex trafficking has strong personal implications. The famous phrase by Martin Luther King Jr. that "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" ring equally true - the indifference to sexual exploitation anywhere is indifference to sexual exploitation in your own backyard (home, neighborhood, city).
If we are willing to ignore the wholesale exploitation of teens in Cambodia, India, or anywhere else in the world, we may find ourselves with an epidemic in our own country. We may also find a society that is anaesthetised to the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children. We must be willing to combat this for the sake of children globally - the future of society really does depend on it. I am not just 'crying wolf' - I have seen this close up around the world. We are talking about millions of young people; the future generation being sexually exploited and devalued.
What do we think this will bring to the next generation? If we are willing to sow indifference to children being sexually harmed, are we equally willing to reap the consequences? How about the consequences locally, right here in America? The truth is - we already experience it. It is here. News and media are beginning to elevate the issue of sex trafficking in America, particularly that of children. But, I am not sure we are ready to digest the reality.
I think the startling thing we are beginning to realize is that this is bigger, more complex, and disturbing than we would have ever thought. Articles emerging with minors 'pimping' out other minors. Parents, other adults, and even police officers trafficking children for sex. As a professional in the anti-trafficking field, we are always challenged by the issue of girls 'choosing' to be involved in prostitution. This deeply disturbs me that as a society, we actually have the inclination to believe that a 16 year old girl choosing to engage in commercial sex is actually a viable and acceptable option.Yet, I look at the media (not as solely responsible - (I volley between "art imitating life" and "life imitating art") and how girls are portrayed, how prostitution is glamorized at some level, and how there is a growing materialism in America to an extreme. This has created an attractive lure for young girls that are susceptible to being manipulated or coerced into 'the life'. As an example, 50 Cent is a celebrity, looked up to by youth.
Here are some of his recent lyrics from his song "P-I-M-P":
"She got a thing for that Gucci, that, that Prada
That BCBG, Burberry Dolce and Gabana
She feed them foolish fantasies, they pay her cause they wanna
I spit a little G man, and my game got her
A hour later, have that ass up in the Ramada..."
"...She like my style, she like my smile, she like the way I talk
She from the country, think she like me cause I'm from New York
I ain't that n***a trying to holla cause I want some h**d
I'm that n***a trying to holla cause I want some bread
I could care less how she perform when she in the bed
B**ch hit that track, catch a date, and come and pay the kid
Look baby this is simple, you can't see
You f**king with me, you f**king with a P-I-M-P"
What is the motivation for this kind of attitude and perspective? Money. This is a crime that is profitable. One girl, at 17, had made over a million dollars. People have said that the recession has caused Americans to reevaluate their values, yet sex trafficking in minors continues to be a cottage industry in the United States. What is my point? My point is this - our reaction to sex trafficking as a society makes us want to cringe and turn away. We don't want to see this. It's paralyzing. It's overwhelming and we feel helpless. We feel as though there is nothing we can do. Oh, certainly, we feel equal amounts of outrage - street justice comes to mind. But, neither of these are helping victims. Instead, we need to look for how we can make an impact. It is not an unsolvable problem, rather; this is something we can eliminate - we can bring an end to this. There are many things you can do:
1. Support your local and federal law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute sex trafficking cases.
2. Support laws that convict criminals (pimps, traffickers, buyers) and protect victims of sex trafficking.
3. Support, volunteer with, and encourage the agencies and organizations that are fighting sex trafficking and assisting victims.
4. Talk about this - sex trafficking is an invisible crime that only goes on undetected because we don't talk about it and bring it into our public forums.
"So, get involved. Find out who is doing what in your city and state - then, decide what it is that you can offer. Don't be paralyzed; do something - give money, give your time, commit to making a difference! Transitions Global has been moving its efforts to develop a domestic sex trafficking shelter forward, but it is a long journey. In the meantime, there are a number of great organizations that are doing good work in this field (there are many horrible ones too!). I encourage you to support the efforts of my heroes in the field: GEMS-Girls, SARC, and many, many more are doing great work in this field.