During the White House’s Forum to Combat Human Trafficking, members of the Obama administration joined with many of the nation’s leading abolitionists to take stock of the nation’s effort to end the scourge of human trafficking and share information to bolster the fight yet ahead of us.
Too often, those of us who fight against human slavery beat our heads against the walls of misinformation and prejudice. Trafficking victims aren’t just those vulnerable people who are smuggled in from other countries so their labor and bodies can be exploited — 80 percent of sex trafficking victims are U.S. citizens, mostly homeless, abused, and impoverished young people who see no other options. Jailing underage prostituted children and teenagers doesn’t solve the problem of sexual exploitation; it’s the johns, gangs, cartels and pimps who buy them and sell them who need to be identified, punished, jailed, fined, and, if they use the bodies of minors, placed on sex offender lists. Not every person whose body is bought and sold is in that position voluntarily – the vast majority of prostituted people would escape if they had a safe route out and a chance at a better future. Most kids who are sold start in theirvery early teens, and we don’t know any 14-year-olds who wake up one morning and decide to be raped ten or more times a day.
At the White House Forum,
the key theme was partnership — linking together in an unprecedented way the technology innovations of Silicon Valley with the investigative and prosecutorial resources of the government and the grassroots credibility and expertise of the service and advocacy communities.
The fight to end human trafficking is gaining traction as awareness builds across the country. If we could make it even half as taboo to buy and sell kids for sex as it is to buy and smoke cigarettes, we would make huge inroads against human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Local efforts that need to be universalized. To date only 11 states have passed Safe Harbor laws that offer young trafficking victims safe shelter, job training, and an education, rather than put them behind bars. More states are considering such laws, but if yours still locks up prostituted kids for being sold — for being victims of statutory rape — you need to join this battle and demand fairer treatment.
Now, 150 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, children should not be for sale. The fact that 100,000 of them were last year in the United States, according to FBI estimates, should do more than grieve us. It must mobilize us.
Learn more at Kevin M. Ryan’s Huffington Post article: Momentum Grows to End Human Trafficking.