A few myths about child (sex) trafficking, excerpted from the speech "A discussion on criminal trafficking of children via airlines for the purpose of global prostitution."
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Child trafficking/child prostitution only happens in third world countries.
The US has groups and organizations who are working to make the public aware that trafficking is happening here, to child victims being brought in from abroad, and to child victims being trafficked locally. How many exactly is difficult to guess. While there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., 100,000 children are estimated to be victimized in the sex trade in the United States each year.1Every year, more than 2 million kids in America will face a period of homelessness2. While survival sex is not usually counted in with trafficking, (child) prostitution or rape statistics, it includes an untold number of minors, under the age of consent, who have sex with adults/strangers in order to obtain shelter or food.
Trafficked/sex victims are easily recognizable; there is a list of red flags to watch for.
Adults and children can fall victim to sex traffickers and pimps. Orphans, runaways, the impoverished and children with low self-esteem can be at particular risk. Sex traffickers, pimps and loverboys choose those they can control; through fear, through attention, manipulation, drugs and/or violence. Traffickers can use the promise of a better life; a job or education to lure kids away from their homes or their country. Some children are taken to a foreign country where they don't know the language, how the system works, or anyone other than the traffickers or the johns. Others are simply isolated from friends or family, completely under the influence of their abuser. Traffickers try to keep their product "looking good" for the customer, so classic signs of physical abuse such as brusing, burns or broken bones, are not always present. Kids are trained to perform, their behaviour carefully controlled to conceal what is really going on. Fears that they might be jailed for prostitution (locals), or deported (foreigners) can make the victim believe that they are a criminal - which can prevent them from ever seeking help from the authorities. Some of the warning signs that might indicate a trafficked victim would seem at first glance to be an indication that things are fine: Does not consider self a victim. Loyalty to/positive feelings toward pimp/trafficker. May try to protect pimp/trafficker from authorities.3
Once rescued, these children can be returned to their parents and/or country of origin.
In domestic sex trafficking cases, the victims can be lured in emotionally by a pimp or loverboy - who can be underage themselves. As is the case with regular abuse victims, even after being removed from their abuser, sex trafficking victims often return to them. A chronic runaway, chronically homeless or drug-addicted child is even less likely to stay away once "rescued."
There are young boys and girls, homeless and not, previously abused as well as not, schooled and unschooled, those with families and not, who enter into the world of child prostitution on their own, without anyone else in control. Here again, without a clear criminal running things, these children are sometimes left out of the statistics of trafficked victims as well as prostitution statistics.4
Following disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods, traffickers flock to the affected area to buy up children directly from their parents, or simply take children who are orphaned or unattended.5 Parents who find themselves in extreme poverty or debt, may sell a child as a child bride, to a brothel, or directly to traffickers. It is not always possible or advised to return such victims to their family or country of origin, and it is likely that the abuse will continue.
1 The Polaris Project - Sex Trafficking in the U.S.
2 Covenant House - Statistics on Homeless Youth in America
3 Thorn & National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - At Risk Warning Signs for Child Sex Trafficking
5 United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction - Child traffickers thrive on disasters