How many children in the United States do you think are repeatedly raped for a tidy profit, pimped out by a relative, kept at a truck stop or hotel against their will for sexual servitude, or photographed for online porn? “As many as 100,000 girls are trafficked as sex slaves within the U.S.,” reports Sojourners, a magazine devoted to social justice. And the average age of entry into child prostitution or pornography? Between 12 and 14 years old.
Human sex trafficking might strike us as a distant overseas problem that plagues countries like Thailand and Cambodia, writes Sojourners, but “the United States has also been a leader of the pack.” The U.S. child sex trade is neatly facilitated through seemingly benign classified ad sites like Backpage.com and Craigslist.com, where users can purchase anything from a used Honda to an escort, stripper, or other “adult job”–except by no means are all the people performing the sex work limited to adults, nor are they there by choice. “Girls as young as 11 have been identified in ads,” writes Andrea Powell in a Huffington Post article about ways to fight sex trafficking online. “Traffickers like the online world,” writes Powell, “because rather than having to move girls around, risking arrest, they hide in hotels where their victims are out of sight and much less likely to try to run away.”
To be a part of the solution: 1) Sign a Change.org petition to stop child sex trafficking on Backpage.com. 2) Think before you masturbate. By partaking of many online porn sites, you are very likely contributing to the sex trafficking of minors. 3) Educate yourself. Polaris Project and FAIR Girls are two excellent nonprofits devoted to ending sexual slavery in our country. 4) Shop on Etsy. Really? Yes–the online marketplace’s JewelGirlsShop features handcrafted jewelry made by former trafficked girls who are now being empowered through art therapy. 5) Ask your political representatives to turn their attention and resources to the domestic child sex trade. As Sojourners points out:
The meager federal resources spent on human trafficking ($60 million per year) are 333 times less than the $20 billion per year Washington has squandered on the drug war–it’s apparently all right to sell children, but not drugs.
Danielle Magnuson is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter @DnlMag.