Child sex trafficking is a disturbingly prevalent issue in our society, and one that is often swept under the rug because it’s so uncomfortable to talk about, and so few of us are willing to admit, to ourselves and to others, that it’s a problem. We simply don’t want to believe that this is something that could happen to us or someone we know, in our ‘safe’ neighbourhoods, and we often assume it’s only something that happens in foreign countries, so we don’t ever need to worry about it. The thing is, it is something that we ALL should be concerned about.
I started a new job a few months ago, serving weekends at a hotel restaurant, and during the corporate training session we received we learned how to recognize the signs of human trafficking and what to do if we suspected someone was being trafficked. This was an eye-opener for me. Before that moment, I had no idea that it was something that was common enough to be brought up during a training session for a new job.
After that, I began to research the issue, and was absolutely blown away by what I found. Child sex trafficking is way more common than a lot of people realize and it is happening in Canada, in the United States, literally everywhere around the world, and it’s happening right under your nose.
- Human trafficking has surpassed the illegal sale of arms
- Human trafficking will surpass the illegal sale of drugs within the next few years
- Victims of child trafficking can be used and abused over and over and over again.
- An estimated $32 billion a year industry, human trafficking is on the rise and is found in all 50 states
- 5 Million trafficked persons are sexually exploited
- Around 300,000 Americans under the age of 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade every year
- Between 14,500–17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the United States each year
- The average age of the victims is between 11 and 14 years old
- An estimated 80% are women and children that are bought, sold, and imprisoned in the underground sex service industry
- Children are often given drugs to comply with the demands of the trafficker
- Some children are even sold by their families to the traffickers, not fully knowing what their child is being sold for
- Nearly two thirds of children sold for sex in the United States are sold online
Who’s at Risk?
Children who run away from problems at home can be easy targets and are often exploited as a result of their emotional vulnerability, homelessness, and desperation for money. The sexual exploitation is not limited to particular racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups, but children from lower income families seem to be at a higher risk of commercial sexual exploitation. In a study, most of the street children that were surveyed were Caucasian youths who had run away from middle-class families.
People are bought and sold into the sex trafficking industry in several different ways — sometimes fake employment agencies, newspaper ads, word of mouth, or abduction. The traffickers can be neighbours, friends, family members, you name it. Increasingly, however, traffickers are part of organized crime syndicates who are often in collaboration with corrupt law enforcement entities, government officials, and employers.
I Am Jane Doe
Netflix recently released a documentary called I Am Jane Doe that follows the stories of several young girls who were bought and sold into the sex trade industry online, and the legal battle their parents have been enduring in order to hold someone accountable for what happened to their children. This documentary is extremely informative and eye-opening, and really drives home the point that this could happen to anyone, anywhere. I highly recommend this documentary if you are looking to educate yourself further on this important issue.
I Am Little Red
From the website:
I AM LITTLE RED is a 10-minute animated short aimed at children most at-risk for sex trafficking (e.g. foster-care, runaway, LBGTQ, homeless, and adopted children), with the goal of prevention and awareness. The film, narrated by Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain, animated by Academy Award winners Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala from PunkRobot, and written by 10 survivors of sex trafficking (aged 14-21) along with Alec Sokolow (Academy Award nominated writer of Toy Story) and Mary Mazzio, is a contemporary re-imagining of the classic fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. I AM LITTLE RED addresses the four tactics a “wolf” (trafficker/pimp) will typically use to lure a Little Red off her path.
My Life My Choice has designed curriculum materials for I AM LITTLE RED, to give at-risk children the skills and tools to stay on their own paths.
This film is coming fall 2017, and will be a must-see for all families around the world to hopefully help children spot the warning signs of potential traffickers and get away before it’s too late. If this is a matter that is truly beyond the law, then the only thing we can do is to keep talking about it — raise awareness and educate our children and ourselves about the warning signs and how to avoid such situations.
One day, maybe we will live in a world where this is a dark memory of our past, and sex trafficking will cease to exist, but until then, we should all to our part to help in any way we can.