Sex crimes in the US have become a pandemic and the country struggles to deal with them as 2 million children are sold each year through sex trafficking.
Nothing is more repugnant than sex crimes against children, and April Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month gives us a time to stop, reflect and bring a broader awareness to the public about the correlation between child sex abuse and human trafficking. Often, there is a disconnect between the two crimes and the link between the two is not registered in the minds of parents, caregivers, educators, clergy, coaches and healthcare professionals. This blog post is intended to clarify how child abuse can often lead to being recruited into the sex trade.
There are robust studies to suggest that one in nine children are sexually abused before the age of 19, one in three girls, and one in five boys. Most typically the abuser is an adult with whom the child trusts, such as a parent, grandparent, relative or non-biological in-law. In fewer than 15% of cases, a stranger is the perpetrator. Child abuse occurs in every zip code and at every socio-economic level. And the “secret” of abuse is often kept hidden because the child is ashamed and/or frightened to share the horror of abuse with anyone else. They carry it with them into young adulthood, making them extremely vulnerable to be approached by a sex trafficking predator that can lure them into a “life” of fantasy, promises of money, gifts.
Such was the case with the young victims of Jeffrey Epstein, whose intermediaries (many teenage girls) lured girls aged 14-18 with cash to perform massages, then nude massages that escalated into unwanted sexual acts.
How do we address this in America?
Child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking require a holistic, organized and broad-based legal and policy approach that also involves all anti-sex trafficking organizations to work together:
● We all need to be committed to preventing human trafficking and the online sexual exploitation of children. Effectively combating these crimes requires a comprehensive and coordinated response to prosecute human traffickers and individuals who sexually exploit children online, to protect and support victims of human trafficking and child exploitation, and to provide prevention education to raise awareness and help lower the incidence of human trafficking and child exploitation into, from, and within the United States.
● At the Federal level, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, and other heads of executive departments and agencies should work together to enhance capabilities to locate children who are missing, including those who have run away from foster care and are vulnerable to human trafficking and child exploitation (in the U.S., 60% of child sex trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system. Foster children are vulnerable to being victimized by child trafficking).
Social media is one of the most prevalent ways of sex traffic recruitment and considering this, executive departments and agencies should engage social media companies; the technology industry; State, local and child welfare agencies; the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and law enforcement at all levels.
● Volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in your community. Donate to anti-sex trafficking groups such as Selah Freedom, so that we can continue our mission of bringing freedom to the exploited through five strong programs: Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, Residential, and Organizational Consulting.
● Faith-Based Communities: Host awareness events and community forums with anti-trafficking leaders or collectively support a local victim service provider.
● Businesses: Provide jobs, internships, skills training, and other opportunities to trafficking survivors.
● College Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Request that human trafficking be included in university curricula.
By raising awareness of child abuse and sex trafficking, we reduce the number of children at risk for child abuse and the possibilities of being sex trafficked. By helping rehabilitate survivors, we empower them to rebuild their lives. By protecting children, we keep them from the clutches of traffickers.
It’s the most important mission we have at this time of our lives, in today’s world. Let’s all help to do God’s work here on earth.
Want to learn more about sex trafficking and what Selah Freedom is doing about it? Sign up for our free monthly Awareness trainings!