Statistics have estimated 2.5 million children, the majority of them girls, are trafficked in the over $12 billion dollar commercial sex industry each year; with 25% of global exploitation occurring in the United States. The average person can help end this epidemic by learning how to stop human trafficking. The best avenue for this is to stay on top of what the government is doing and by joining or supporting non-profit organizations.
In the United States alone, 300,000 children are at risk of commercial exploitation every year. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines this as: the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery first degree rape. Coercion includes threats of physical or psychological harm to children and/or their families. Anyone under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex is a victim. This epidemic is the second fastest growing global enterprise, only second behind drug smuggling.
Statistics estimate that 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the U.S. annually. Children are brought into the United States from Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. When they arrive in the United States, they are subjected to child trafficking in many different sectors. Examples of this include prostitution on the streets or in a private residence, club, hotel, spa, or massage parlors; online commercial sexual exploitation; exotic dancing/stripping; laboring in agricultural, factory, or construction; domestic labor in a home; restaurant work; illegal drug trade; door-to-door sales, street peddling or begging; and hair, nail, and beauty salons. Anyone can be a trafficker, including family members, acquaintances, pimps, employers, smugglers, and strangers. They often prey upon children’s vulnerabilities, and many traffickers use psychological intimidation or violence to control and gain financial benefits from their exploitation.
One recent US child trafficking case involved the disappearance and murder of five-year-old Shaniya Davis. Officials believe that she was trafficked by her mother, Antoinette Davis. She apparently sold Shaniya to Mario Andrette McNeill to pay off her drug debt. He has been charged with kidnapping, first-degree rape, and first-degree murder of the five-year-old while the mother is being charged with selling her daughter, felony child abuse, prostitution, and filing a false police report in connection with the disappearance and death of her daughter. Another recent case involves a West Seattle pimp who was convicted on two counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor, child prostitution, several counts of second-degree human trafficking, promoting prostitution in the first degree, unlawful imprisonment, and conspiracy. His victims include three 15-year-old girls who were repeatedly beaten and threatened if they did not continue to work for him in the commercial sex industry.
In Phoenix, a judge will have to decide if a 9 year old is competent to stand trial for the rape of an 8 year old. The teacher of the child reported that he wore the same clothes for months, came to school smelling bad, was often hungry, and did not do well in school. We do not know if the teacher reported the boy’s maltreatment to the child protective services. After this period of alleged neglect of his basic needs (clean clothes and adequate food), he and several other boys were accused of raping an 8 year old girl. Both what it is alleged that he did and what it is alleged was done to him were wrong. Should the children be held accountable for their actions, but should the parents be held accountable, as well?
We know that violence is related to having a childhood background of trauma and not receiving sufficient services to heal from the trauma and gain appropriate coping skills. We also know that children’s brains and skills are still developing, so if we want them to ever have the ability to function well in society, they need treatment to reduce their problems. Without treatment, they will have severe problems for a lifetime. So how and when do we provide needed services to maltreated children so they do not start mistreating others.
At a recent International Conference on Children and the Law in Prato, Italy, many professionals sated that the child welfare/protective services systems “feed” the juvenile justice systems. Children that grow up in violent homes tend to perpetrate violence as they grow older. They come to believe it is their survival and the “norm.” Consequently, they “float” in and out of the two systems depending on circumstances