The Problem Often Associated With Developing Countries is Becoming a Homegrown Threat

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2010

M.S. was 12 years old when she first fell in love. It was his “swagger” that attracted her, she recalled, laughing.

The pre-teen, who lost her mother at a very young age and only saw her father on holidays, said she desperately craved a father figure. All she ever wanted was to be loved, she said, and she thought she found that in the man who patrolled up and down her street wooing her.

“I just fell into his arms,” said M.S., who didn’t want her full name revealed because she is a minor.

One day, the man invited M.S. to go on a drive with him. She did, and she never returned home.

For four years, M.S. was forced into child prostitution with four different pimps. She was taken from city to city, forced to have sex with random men against her will. She rarely got to keep any of the $1,500 she made every day. Instead, she was abused mentally and physically by both her pimps and other girls who he housed.

“I got my childhood taken from me,” M.S., now 17, told ABC News. “I used to think this is what I’m supposed to do, and I just did it. … It was normal to us.”

M.S. was scared to run away, afraid that her pimps would turn their threats into hurting her family into reality. Even when, two years after being sold into sex, M.S. found out that her grandmother and sister had put out fliers looking for her and had even put her name on the missing persons list, she didn’t contact them.

“I was scared of them judging me,” she recalled.

M.S. is one of thousands of American girls who are part of sex trafficking chains in the United States. It is a problem many associate with developing countries, but is one that is increasingly plaguing the United States.

“I think many Americans are more willing to accept that there are girls enslaved in Cambodia or Delhi, and really can’t imagine that it’s happening right here,” actress Demi Moore said at a briefing on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “As a society, we owe it to them to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

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