There are terrorists in the United States who actively seek victims for their sex trafficking businesses. According to Shared Hope International, this enterprise is booming. The market for human beings is profitable. In fact, the Urban Institute reported that in 2014, the “underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.” Sex traffickers target children as young as 11 years old. Moreover, younger boys and girls are also subject to these predators. These youngsters are targeted because of their naive personalities.
In the U.S., there are over 100,000 children who are bought, sold, and rented every year. Sex trafficking also exploits adults, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It is, in fact, considered “a form of modern-day slavery. While all law enforcement agencies are involved in the apprehension of the traffickers, the DHS is the agency that has the ultimate responsibility of investigating the crimes, making arrests, and assuring the protection of the victims.
The terrorists in the U.S. are not only those the media discusses daily, but they are also the sex traffickers who are active in their pursuit of victims. These terrorists are pimps and they are not always strangers. They are as likely to be a parent, family friend, or any other person who can assert power over those who are vulnerable.
Another term used is prostitution, however, a person who is forced into the sex industry is not a prostitute. According to Shared Hope International, there are many forms of sex trafficking, including:
- gang-controlled, and
Based on the definition, provided by Shared Hope, the crime begins when there is a commercial sex act that occurs as a result of fraud or coercion. Those who buy sex are often referred to as tricks or johns. The trade for sexual acts comes in many forms such as money, drugs, clothing, housing, food, etc. Survival sex is used to describe persons under the age of 18 who trade their bodies in exchange for basic needs or drugs.
Escaping the cycle is nearly impossible, and by the time the victim is an adult, their self-esteem is non-existent. The psychological damage begins once a youngster is approached by a broker. While the process varies, the violation frequently begins with compliments, gifts, and promises of love. Then, the assault and battery begins and often includes;
- rape, and
The emotional and physical costs are high. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), one can suffer from broken bones, traumatic brain injury (TBI), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), hepatitis, AIDS, sterility, complications from forced abortions, and more.
The psychological effects are complicated. The post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is equivalent to a soldier who has fought in front-line combat. Sexual-slavery becomes the only way of life the victim understands. Stockholm syndrome, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, self-mutilation (e.g. cutting), and suicidal ideation are common.
Additionally, if one manages to get out of the situation, their emotional and physical health issues may linger for a lifetime. Education of law enforcement agencies is provided by many organizations in the U.S. DHS is one agency committed to assuring the victims are not treated like criminals. Victims are taken off the streets and safely secured while their perpetrators are arrested as well as prosecuted.
Education is key for the public as well. Training those who work with sex trafficking survivors and programs teaching awareness as well as prevention are also vitally important.
Renting Lucy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children, which was written by Linda Smith, is one of the novels available for purchase on the Shared Hope International website. The following is the book’s description:
Step into the darkness of the trafficking underworld. Meet the actual people who live there. Hear their words – and sense the terror and despair.
Recently, Guardian Liberty Voice received an email that demonstrates the importance of awareness. It was from a young woman who chose to share the following story:
My 14-year-old little sister and her friend were dropped off at the Great Lakes Crossing Theater on Friday. During the movie, a woman kept popping up in front of the girls trying to offer Starburst candy and some pieces of jewelry. After the girls tried to refuse and ignore the woman, they went to security.
We have since learned that there is a sex trafficking ring operating in Pontiac: traffickers use a powder-like drug that absorbs into the skin to gain victims for prostitution (what was most likely in the candy or on the jewelry). Please do not go to Great Lakes alone! This is a very real operation going on and has been confirmed by multiple authorities.
It is horrifying to think what could have happened if my sister and her friend hadn’t been perceptive enough to leave the theater when they did. So thankful that they acted quickly and got out of there.
According to Shared Hope International, the buying, selling, and renting of human beings “thrives because there is serious demand.” The perpetrators find victims online, in clubs and bars, through friends and acquaintances, at schools, as well as in neighborhoods. “Society may call it prostitution, but federal law calls it sex trafficking.”
There are terrorist groups that are feared in the United States, but sex traffickers actively terrorize those who are vulnerable. Below is a video about what it feels like to be a sex-slave. It is expressed through a poem written about the feelings one suffers at the hands of the pimps, brokers, and johns.
Opinion by Cathy Milne
Edited by Leigh Haugh
Polaris Project: Sex Trafficking
Shared Hope International: What Is Sex Trafficking
Psychology of Crime in the News Website: Psychological and Physical Effects of Sex Trafficking in Its Victims
Featured Image Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License