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The Sex Trafficking of Girls in the United States: A Worldwide Problem on Our Own Doorstep

Updated on February 9, 2015

Sex Trafficking-in the United States?

Yes, sex trafficking happens in the United States. In fact, the United States is the top choice for traffickers from around the world to bring the women and children they abduct to work in the illicit sex trade. Many of these children and women come from other countries like Moldovia, Thailand, Ukraine, and El Salvador and are brought to the US to work as sex slaves. However, in recent years, there has been a rise in abductions of young girls living here in the US to use as sex slaves. Furthermore, there is a rise of young girls and women being deceived by their boyfriends, who end up pimping them to their male friends for profit. This article will go over the many forms that the sex trafficking of girls manifests itself here in the US, what is being done to stop it and what could be done to stop it.

US: The World's Sex Trafficking Center

Young women and children are often conned out of their homes and communities to come to the US either for job opportunities or to meet with someone, when they find out they have been forced to become a sex slave. Most children who end up trafficked as sex slaves in the US were kidnapped from their homes, and forced into the illicit sex trade by their captors.

These children and young women are trafficked from all over the world. Mostly these children and young women come from countries like Thailand, Moldovia, Ukraine, China, India and various parts of Latin America. According to the most recent statistical data, 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually. However, there is an astonishing estimated 100,000 to 300,000 underage girls that are sold into the domestic illicit sex trade. If these numbers are accurate, than where did these girls come from? Unfortunately, the answer to this question lies within our backyards.

Kidnapping Girls for the Sex Trade

So, what phenomena helps to explain that there are 100,000-300,000 young girls that are being used in the illicit sex trade here in the US? The answer lies in criminal activity that already occurs domestically. One of the most common ways young girls end up as sex slaves is that they are kidnapped from their backyard. In recent years, more girls between the ages of 8-16 have been kidnapped either by someone they know or a stranger. What do these girls have in common? Well, they come from varied backgrounds: in some cases, the girls were living on the streets and they were lured by an individual who made false claims to help them but instead, forced them to become a sex slave. In other cases, young girls who come from good, middle-class homes in American suburbs are kidnapped by people they know, but are involved with the illicit sex trade. Therefore, the main thing these girls have in common is that someone in the illicit sex trade identified these girls as a potential source of profit, and made plans to shanghai them. Therefore, any young girl in any living situation is a target for the illicit sex trade if there is a criminal associated with this activity lurking around.

So, what are these kidnappers like, and why do young girls fall prey to them? Those who kidnap young girls for the illicit sex trade tend to be very good actors. Their strategy is to get close to the person they have identified to be a good fit for their illicit organization's needs; ways of getting close to the young girl include going to school with her, or inviting her to take part in an activity that she could benefit from that matches her needs. Once the girl agrees, the kidnapper reacts and will shanghai her into sex slavery. In most cases, the parents don't even realize that their child was kidnapped, and it is difficult to recover the lost child from her, or in some occasions, his kidnappers. However, some are lucky to get out, either by their own clever devices or they receive help from a stranger, law enforcement, or an organization.

Be Careful Who You Date: Boyfriends who Pimp Their Girlfriends

There is another form of sex slavery that isn't talked very much however is starting to become more prevalent here in the United States. Even though this phenomena happens on a smaller scale than international sex trafficking operations and kidnapping girls and shanghaiing them into the sex trade, this method has proven to be just as illegal, harmful, and operates with similar motives to these other forms of sex slavery I have already mentioned. There have been cases of girls forced by their boyfriends to sleep with his friends for money. I remember one night while I was in graduate school, I stayed up to watch an episode of Greater Boston. In this episode, the hostess was talking to a woman who had escaped this exact lifestyle her boyfriend had forced her into. If I remember correctly, she was sixteen years old when her boyfriend started bribing her with sex and beating her if she didn't sleep with his friends. He would set up "appointments" with her and his friends; what she didn't know, until it was too late, that her boyfriend was getting his friends to pay him to set up these appointments for her. Eventually, she found a way to get away from him and from that lifestyle. The reason why she was on Greater Boston was to help inform the community of her efforts to help others who have gone through what she has, within the state of Massachusetts. However, I read a study recently that discussed how young girls experience this same kind of entry into the sex trade in Georgia. Apparently young girls, like this one in Massachusetts, are being forced by their boyfriends to have sex so that he can make a profit. I also heard from a writing colleague of mine that she had heard cases of this kind of sex slavery here in Florida, while researching for a new YA book she is working on to raise awareness of child sex slave issues here in the US.

Conclusion

There is so simple way to answer how to combat the illicit sex trade here in the United States and sex trafficking. However, there have been strides to help victims of sex slavery that are making a difference. For example, many non-profits like the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Georgia's Alliance Against Human Trafficking are working closely with law enforcement and the local community to help identify human trafficking victims and put their perpetrators to justice. Furthermore, several states, including Florida and Georgia, have enacted laws that can help reduce human trafficking, but also combat the current issues that exist. However, the problem still persists and the numbers of victims related to human trafficking in the United States is staggering. In order to help the efforts already being done, we need to bring out more awareness to the public so that they can do what they can to help victims find redemption and their perpetrators to find the jail time they deserve.

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