The Rape Trade -- child prostitution
Introduction to the Rape Trade
This is an update on an earlier hub, "52 children recovered, 60 alleged child pimps arrested but have you heard about it,' which I wrote in response to a 'non-news' item of October 2009. My outrage at that time was triggered by a disturbing story on the CNN streamer.
In the first nation-wide operation of the FBI's Innocence Lost Initiative, in cooperation with local law enforcement reported 52 children had been recovered and 690 people arrested, including 60 alleged pimps.
Surprisingly -- no that's too mild a word. Shockingly, the media treated this as a non-event with no actual news story for three days. Three days! And then it was given a hurried two minute reportage. More on this below.
Now, a year later, another FBI/ local law agency initiative, Operation Cross Country, has successfully recovered 69 children from the sex trade, and arrested "nearly 889" people including 99 pimps.
Bravo, say I.
This time, the media is on the ball -- well almost. This story made the screen and in prime time, too. But the coverage spawned a number of background informational broadcasts that left me feeling rather uneasy.
The education given the American listeners didn't jive with what I knew of the child-sex trade or those caught up in its destructive net.
I made a few calls, sent a few emails and conferred with some other child protection workers around the country. They concurred.
Hence, this hub was born.
For those of you too busy, or upset by the reality of this world, I've prepared a short video giving you the facts as many of us with experience in the field know them. It runs for 3 minutes and 45 seconds. If you do nothing else on this page, please watch it.
And if you still have some time, read the section directly below the video.
The Rape Trade
But -- sorry all you hard working law enforcement people, you're missing something
Laudable as these initiatives are -- and they are -- it seems to many of us from the child-protection field, they are somehow missing the mark.
You see, we all know there are various levels to this child sex trade.
At the very bottom of the sex trade food chain are the street kids, the homeless, the runaways, the drug-addicted, who practice what we call 'survival sex.' That is, sex is traded for shelter and food. It is a casual, messy trade and dangerous to the participants.
Just barely above these, are the individual pimps who run a few girls (or boys) on the various 'strips' across the country, those street corners everyone sees and knows about, truck stops, casinos and gentlemen's clubs, or a simple advertisement on that giant electronic pimp, the internet. These girls (or boys) may have graduated from the first level, and come under the 'protection' of a pimp, or they are on their way down, or they are victims initiated into the trade by the pimps themselves.
Then, as every worker in the field is aware but unable
to prove, there is a higher level yet, an organized system of
child-trafficking capable of moving a victim from hand to hand across
the country in the time it takes for a missing child report to be filed.
Children and money change hands in a systematic, organized business
that would rival Henry Ford in its efficiency. This is a higher end
trade; its victims are generally not street kids, and its customer lists
expansive. And probably highly surprising.
This crime machine is gobbling up our children at a sickening rate. Don't you ever wonder where all those missing kids go? All those heart-breaking pictures of youngsters, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them, they didn't just disappear from the face of the planet. They haven't found some secret niche of the country and become invisible. They have been taken and bought and sold, time and time again.
So, dear law enforcement, while we are pleased you've saved 52 children last October and 69 children this November, this is but a spit in the ocean, and we're pretty sure you're only grabbing the dregs from the lower level, small-time pimps.
But please, keep trying.
How do we know this?
We know there are organized criminal enterprises operating across North America because the victims have told us so. Not in so many words, of course. They are children, and highly unlikely to say "Hey, I was captured by organized crime and trafficked."
Here is a case of my own from many years ago:
Helene lived in Montreal, Quebec, a happy child until her parents divorced when she was ten. By the time she was twelve, she hadn't seen her father in two years; her mother worked long hours and desperate for attention, she gladly accepted the friendship of a young man. Her secret. One day, he invited her to go for a car ride. Two days later she was in Florida. En route, she and money changed hands three times. Two other girls, hands and feet bound waited for her in the back of the enclosed van that drove her to her final destination -- wherever that was. She was moved from house to house so often, she can't recall. She didn't work the streets. Not at first. She was driven from rapist to rapist. When she was finally recovered, she was thirteen, and working her way down the food chain of the sex trade. She then belonged to a pimp, having been sold again. The only person arrested in this story was Helene, for soliciting in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Luckily for her, though it required several months to identify her and return her to her home -- with a juvenile record, I might add. Needless to say, Helene didn't settle-in at home very well, and ended up in protective custody at age fifteen, when I met her.
Here is a more recent case:
Suzy's story made headlines in Vancouver, Canada a couple of years ago. (Suzy isn't her name, of course.) The eleven-year-old was taken while on her way home from a softball game and within hours crossed the border into Bellingham, Washington. During the long night of south-bound travel, her two captors took turns raping her. She changed hands somewhere in Oregon, or perhaps Northern California, but her new owners fell afoul of the law during a speeding stop near Santa Rosa, California. Lucky girl. Even luckier, she was immediately returned home, after medical attention, and came into the care of a colleague of mine.
One more, in the interest of international balance:
Terri -- Teresa -- grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, at least until she was twelve. (Amazing how that age seems to be such a dangerous one.) Hers was a single parent home, and her father lived in Regina, a couple of hundred miles south and east. After a quarrel with her mother, she skipped school and decided to hitch-hike to her father. She never made it. Instead, she ended up in Winnipeg, sold by her captors to a group of adults who kept half a dozen girls, and rented them out. She and the others traveled considerably, from house to house, and sometimes motels, all over Manitoba, Northern Ontario, Minnesota and South Dakota, never staying more than one month in any one house or group. As she grew older and more womanly, she was sold to a pimp in Winnipeg, and joined the sleazy ranks on that city's infamous Portage and Main strip at the ripe old age of fifteen.(That's old for Portage and Main.)
One day, she was approached by an outreach worker after a particularly brutal beating at the hands of a john. She entered the Children's Home program, a rehabilitation shelter for child sex trade victims. That's where I met her.
Time after time, outreach workers hear the same story. A child, usually a girl, is taken from her life, sold into an upper-level child sex-slave operation, where she is escorted to her rapists, kept in dismal conditions -- usually mattresses on the floor of a secured room where several girls live -- until they become mature-looking, or too dispirited and soiled for their clients, and then, like horses who lose their condition, she is resold into ever-worsening situations.
Only an organized network has the resources to trade in children so quickly, so efficiently, so brutally.
Myths about the child-sex trade
Myth # 1 Girls enter the sex trade willingly
A no-brainer for anyone with a working cerebrum or a heart. But you'd be surprised how many people think this is the case. I had a number of comments on the previous hub saying as much. One even said, "They get the best from men, have all the fun. Not like a wife." Another wrote:"A girl can do as she wishes with her body, and who are you to spoil her fun?"
Sorry, but a girl can't do as she wishes with her body, although a woman can.Children don't have the requisite abilities to make such choices, and anyone who has sex with a child is committing a criminal act.
A girl in the sex trade is not having sex, she is being raped.
No one would willingly enter into such a humiliating, degrading and brutal situation of her own free will, no one. Considering the proclivities of many of these rapists, none of them about being tender, affectionate or at all concerned with the feelings or welfare of the body he is raping, it certainly can't be a pleasant experience.
You think they're having fun? I think you've watched Pretty Woman one too many times.
One of my colleagues, helping me with this hub sent me a print-out of a chat room discussion where two men exchanged ratings on a young victim they had both rented. Here is part of the exchange.
"Don't waste your time xxxx. She couldn't even take a little spanking. The c*** ran to a corner and cried like a baby. Who wants to f*** some crybaby. I took my money back. Stupid c***."
"I had her once. She tried to lock herself in the bathroom. Guess she didn't know the lock don't work. She went all dead when I pulled her out. It was like f****** a pot roast."
Now, doesn't that sound like fun?
Take a look at the photo of the young girl to the right. She's been beaten. Someone's initials are burned into her skin, and she's been superficially sliced many times with a blade. One of her rapists did this to her.
And it is far from a rare occurrence. Every time a victim is left alone in a room with a stranger, or enters a car, she is at risk of serious injury. Even death.
Myth two: A girl in the sex trade is protected by her pimp. It's a win-win business arrangement.
Yes. In the same way roundworms protect a dog.
When a vulnerable, frightened girl is left alone in a room with a man who has paid for the privilege of raping her, or steps into a car, not knowing who this man is or what he intends to do to her, the pimp is nowhere to be seen.
He shows up later to take the money. Or to beat her if she doesn't have it.
We might say he provides a roof over her head, and food for her belly, except that he does that with the money she's earned. The roof is likely to be a locked room, and the food poor, infrequent and insufficient.
Then why is she with him?
These are children. Remember that. And it's a mean, ugly, frightening world even for many adults. A child craves someone to look after them. The pimp plays on that, and in the neurotic, brutal world of the child sex trade, soon the victim comes to see the very person selling her body, beating her, raping her as a guardian, a savior. Strange as that may sound.
With the passage of time, the victim becomes far too broken, dispirited, weak or sick to even think of protest, disobedience or escape.
They come to see themselves as human trash, unworthy of a better life.
Even those who are recovered physically, have a hard time healing from this. I've watched some of these girls grow into women who seek abusive relationships, put themselves in high risk situations, neglect themselves and in one or two cases, suicide.
A pimp is a businessman with a product to sell, one in which he intends to invest as little as possible, will work as hard as he can while she is still marketable in order to maximize his profits.
The victim is a commodity with a limited shelf life.
Myth #3: The majority of human trafficking for the sex trade involves foreign women and girls from Asia, Central America and Eastern Europe.
One would easily believe this to be true because every article, movie, TV show on the subject discusses the problem as being one originating outside of the borders of the U.S. Rarely, if ever is domestic trafficking discussed.
In fact, on one hub about human trafficking a commenter wrote: "I want to do something to help these poor victims. Do you have the names of organizations in Thailand?"
Yes, it is a problem of those foreign places all right. THEY should do something about it.
I.C.E. -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement, estimates that between 14,500 and 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the U.S. from foreign countries for the sex trade.
However, the FBI estimates over 100,000 children alone are trafficked within the U.S.
Put an end to sex-tourism, says one petition I was asked to sign. It is a big problem in poor places like Thailand, Cambodia and now Brazil. Yes, I'm sure it is. I wonder how many sex tourists are in Thailand right now, today. An estimated 230,000 to 250,000 children are bought on American streets every day.
Who has a big problem?
The situation as it exists in the United States is comparable to all other nations, no better, no worse. However, as long as we prefer not to look, see, hear, or understand the problem here, as long as we cling to the belief that is a foreign problem invading our shores, that somehow this country is different, we can't begin to deal with it.
Sixty-Nine Children Rescued During Operation Cross Country
Washington, D.C. November 08, 2010
— filed under: Crimes Against Children, Field Cases, Breaking News, Press Release, Human Trafficking
* FBI National Press Office
“Child prostitution continues to be a significant problem in our country, as evidenced by the number of children rescued through the continued efforts of our crimes against children task forces,” said Shawn Henry, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. “There is no work more important than protecting America’s children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization. Through our strategic partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, we are able to make a difference.”
69 children recovered following a massive operation. 52 last time. Please don't dislocate your arm patting yourselves on the back.
But on behalf of those 69 children, I thank you. And for the total 1,250 or so others you have liberated from hell over the seven years this initiative has been in action.
Could you try harder, please? I just don't think a .0002% recovery rate is good enough for our children.
52 children recovered, 60 alleged child pimps arrested in crackdown but have you heard about it
- 52 children recovered, 60 alleged child pimps arrested in crackdown -- but have you heard about it?
Today (Oct. 2009) the FBI announced 52 children recovered during a crack down on the child sex slave industry, according to CNN's computer streaming healines on line. Did any of you hear about it? And why not?