Sex slavery can be traced to the far corners of our country; no community is immune. Advocacy groups estimate that more than 100,000 children in the United States are exploited every year, the majority of whom are young girls. The reality is that many traffickers prey on the vulnerable. Studies have estimated that up to 90 percent of runaways eventually end up in the sex trade. The average age that a girl is first trafficked is 13 years old. By taking advantage and exploiting these children when they are young, traffickers make it difficult for victims to leave.
The sad fact is that human trafficking is a problem that is only getting worse. The growth of the Internet has brought with it the ability for pimps and traffickers to find more susceptible victims and take sex slavery underground—away from the watchful eyes of law enforcement. In order to end this problem, we need a comprehensive approach to combating it.
The “Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act” (HR 3610) would change current law to ensure that trafficked minors are treated as victims, and provide an avenue for them to leave their situation. The bill requires states to pass “safe harbor” legislation that takes victims down a path of protective services, counseling and skill building rather than entering the legal system and facing incarceration. The bill would also provide opportunities for victims to build employment skills to help them find jobs. By making them eligible for participation in the Job Corps program, it decreases their susceptibility to human trafficking and minimizes the likelihood that they will be forced to return to sex slavery.
Resources at the local, state and federal level need to come together. This legislation will establish a national strategy to combat human trafficking by integrating agencies and coordinating resources to be more effective in holding responsible the criminals that are ruining these young women’s lives.
Taking action to end sex trafficking is a cause that cannot wait. Ending the exploitation of children in our country is an issue that should have no ideological bounds.
Learn more at Rep. Erik Paulsen’s and Rep. Gwen Moore’s Roll Call article: Exploiting Our Daughters: Fighting Sex Trafficking.