Human Trafficking on Your Block
In case you aren’t aware of the 100,000-300,000 American children at risk of human sex trafficking in the United States, now you can be. NPR spoke on it late last week and gave a disturbing inside look at how it can happen: predators and pimps prey on at-risk youth, sometimes even by going to their shelters or runaway houses, and sometimes by picking them up on the street. They offer them food and a job. And then they take them back to a house where many other children wait to be sold.
This is a bigger problem than we want to admit. American males make up a large percentage of clients in sex trafficking, not only in the U.S. but around the world through “sex tourism” trips. Our large events like the Super Bowl and Olympics can increase the sex trade in the host city by 100%.
If a child is caught in the act, she is charged and tried as a prostitute, and too often her captor goes free. We are punishing our victims – our own children – in a way we would despise if it was happening elsewhere.
And if, by God’s grace, a child escapes, there is nowhere to go. While many wonderful organizations work to end the sex trade elsewhere and have opened safe houses abroad, victims in the United States have only 50 beds available to them in the entire country, according to the NPR report.
It is important to know what we can do to fight this problem. First, the obvious one of protecting your own loved ones by educating them about strangers and safety where they walk, work and play.
Next, we need to be demanding that our churches and communities have beds and food available for these victims if found. It would be better to meet for church on the lawn or parking lot and use the sanctuary as it was once used: a shelter. Some of these children have been trafficked into the country by Americans and thus don’t speak English and have no idea of their rights before the law. They deserve refugee status and a chance to see their tormentors put behind bars. American children need counseling and food. Small community groups and places of worship must offer this.
We also need stricter punishments for sex traders. This crime should be considered wide-scale rape. Sentences should be appropriate… as in horrible… as in life without parole. Right now offenders in the United States and abroad can sometimes get sentences of just a few years.
Young people “caught in the act” of being trafficked should not be prosecuted, and if it happens by accident, their records should be expunged, just as the NPR report describes. It is difficult for these children to describe what has happened to them, and sometimes it is not clear at first that they were slaves, but if a teenage girl looks like she has been starved and carries multiple diseases, it is ridiculous for police to assume so quickly that she acted alone. Proper interrogation would occur via an expert in the field of child prostitution and/or slavery.
All of these issues require the fury of communities to be made real. The crime must anger us to the point of action. Does it?
What resources could you use, today, to help victims of sex trafficking in the U.S.?
Why are there only 50 beds available in the entire country for these children? Where could you place beds, counseling and food in your community? How would you start?