Human Trafficking in America: A Different Kind of “Drug War”

May 10, 2010 by Sheryl Young  

Human trafficking. Sex slaves. Child slavery.

It’s something Americans associate with a few European or third world countries. But the U.S. State Department’s 2009 “Trafficking in Persons” Report documents problems in 175 nations.
Girls, women, children and even teen boys are being deceived, kidnapped, trapped and shipped everywhere from America to Africa.

And it could be happening at our neighborhood mini-market.

From California to New England, the problem is spreading within the United States. It’s becoming as uncontrollable as the drug war that has raged for decades, despite the government’s best efforts.

The estimated FBI numbers from sources as varied as ABC Primetime in 2006 to Christianity Today in 2010 show 100,000-300,000 teens and children under the age of 18 have been trafficked within the states per year.

It is harder to obtain statistics for adult victims, because of a finer line between “voluntary” and forced prostitution or sexual slavery.

In April 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s office brought sex trafficking charges against the Gambino family, notoriously reputed to be part of the elusive “mob” in America. With the arrest of 14 people, the charges include trapping girls to sell for sex at high stakes poker games in the middle of busy Manhattan. Engaging in human trafficking is a new low even for the mob, U.S. Attorney’s office representatives stated in a press conference covered by MSNBC.

Also in April, the Florida Department of Law Enforcementreported that human trafficking has become the biggest “invisible” crime in the state. FloridaHouse Bill633 and Senate Bill 966 are currently being proposed to help law enforcement push back against the sex slavery trade.

How can this happen in America?

The massive amounts of money to be made through human trafficking is a powerful aphrodisiac that has enticed more people, even women, to deal in such crimes. In the Gambino case, one of the people arrested was a woman known to be involved in luring the victims.

The process of obtaining victims for human trafficking:

For most teen girls and women, if they are not outright kidnapped, they’re being enticed by the possibility of modeling or acting jobs. The Hollywood dream of obtaining fame and fortune at a young age through television and movies has become an obsession.

When they get to their destination, they are thrown into vehicles or locked in back bedrooms and sold to countless customers for sex acts, sexual abuse, and to appear in pornographic movies against their will.

They may be starved, drugged, verbally abused to the point of having no self-esteem, and threatened with death if they attempt to escape.

For girls and boys who do run away from home, criminals recognize their vulnerability, hunger and brokenness and are able to entice them into prostitution and porn films with the promise of money. The victim may receive tiny payments to keep them involved.

For children, it often starts with simple nabbing from neighborhoods.

A U.S. Government grant helped reveal the child trafficking problem:

In 2008, an organization called Shared Hope International(SHI) applied for and received a government grant to study the suspected nationwide crisis of child trafficking between states. Their resulting survey revealed that many of the children were often being misidentified as delinquents, and  punished for crimes when they were actually victims.

Since then, the FBI and agencies such as the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families have started training personnel to recognize when a person is a human trafficking victim instead of a runaway or criminal themselves (HHS Fact Sheet here).

See the Underground’s previous report, “Sex + Money,” about the ongoing production of a new movie aimed at exposing the U.S. sex slave industry.

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