Recently America’s Most Wanted (AMW) aired a two hour special on Lifetime Television documenting human trafficking which “affects 27 million men, women and children worldwide”. When the words “human trafficking” are mentioned it brings forth a multitude of unpleasant images involving extremely poor and underdeveloped third world countries, places like Cambodia and Vietnam. Yet, despite the common association of human trafficking in these third world countries, human trafficking is a very real problem here in the United States of America and according to John Walsh the host of America’s Most Wanted, “America as the number one country in human trafficking”.
Wikipedia defines human trafficking, “as the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor”. The U.S. Department of Education states, “thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation” and “an unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor”. The statistics are staggering, according to America’s Most Wanted, “sex trafficking in America involves over 100,000 children” and “many children are forced into sex trafficking beginning at 12 to 14 years of age”.
However, even children as young as 2 or 3 years of age are often sold for sex and the internet plays a huge part in exploiting children for the commercial sex trade industry. The World Wide Web is fast, and can be very difficult to physically track down where a child is being sold online before the people who sell them shut down the website. Websites are essentially disposable and can be set up quickly and just as quickly shut down and moved elsewhere. In addition, the people who are exploiting our men, women, and children in the sex trade, know how to lay low when things start to feel wrong.
The most frightening aspect of America’s Most Wanted documentary on the human trafficking was how easily the men and women who traffic young children and women only see the victims they exploit as throw away commodities. Children are simply an item that is used, abused, and when no longer needed, replaced by another child. The U.S. Department of Education warns parents that “human traffickers are targeting minors through telephone chat-lines, clubs, on the street, through friends, and at malls, as well as using girls to recruit other girls at schools and after-school programs".
Minor children living in homes without a biological parent, or with only one parent, or a parent who has to work multiple jobs to try and make ends meet are the most vulnerable. The internet is described as the World Wide Web for a reason. Children allowed online should be closely supervised as the commercial sex trade is bought and sold on the internet. Predators can use the internet, teen chat rooms and game sites, cell phones, and other electronic media to find their next victim, without ever leaving the comfort of their own home.
How anyone could ever see a child as a sexual object is something this author cannot comprehend or wrap her mind around. This is one of a series of articles which will follow aspects of the human trafficking trade in the weeks ahead. Additional articles will provide links and numbers to resources which are available to help victims of the sex trade to escape their situation and get back home or find a safe place.
In addition, future articles will include the various signs an outsider can look for in spotting someone who is being exploited or trafficked and how to help. You can start helping now by visiting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website and look at the pictures of children missing in America. Then visit America’s Most Wanted to learn more about the commercial sex trade industry and how men, women, and children are exploited in America.
If you suspect someone you suspect is a victim of human trafficking please call 911, or your local police department immediately. There is a National 24-our toll free hot line for the Human Trafficking Resource Center which can be reached by dialing 1-888-373-7888. If you spot a missing child please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST.