Ask any parent how much their child is worth to them and they will almost immediately say that their child is "priceless." It’s what you would expect a loving parent to say.
Ask any sex trafficker, and they will tell you exactly how much your child is worth. They will put a price on your child’s head based upon their age, gender, vulnerability and other desirable factors for which the trafficker is seeking.
Putting a price on your child’s head is their business.
Sex trafficking is a worldwide problem and it is gaining in popularity among those that buy and sell human beings for profit.
Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third largest criminal enterprise in the world. This statistic should be enough to send chills down the spine of every parent.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.
In America, statistics show that over 293,000 children each year are snatched up and sold on the market for commercial sexual exploitation. These children are predominantly between the ages of 12 and 14 for females and between 11 and 13 for boys and transgender youth.
Many believe that sex trafficking only occurs in the lives of prostitutes in the dark, seedy backrooms of brothels in some distant third world country.
Others often envision traffickers as stereotypical drug dealers standing on the street corner selling children along with drugs to make more money.
Some parents may believe that the average sex trafficker looks like the Hollywood version of a pimp with big jewelry and expensive cars selling kids for sex out of a home.
While some of these examples may fit the description of sex traffickers, all too often these traffickers are family members, friends, peers, foster parents or anyone who wants to profit from selling a minor for sex or as chattel to another sex trafficker.
Some traffickers may even be the gang members of yesterday. Many gang members have shed their interests in fighting over territory and have instead focused their attention on an even higher producing commodity, our children.
Who are often the victims of sex traffickers?
All too prevalent in the news are reports of children who have gone missing from foster care with no record of what may have happened to them.
There are also reports of children who went missing that were never reported missing. It is uncertain whether these children were coaxed or forced into becoming sex trafficking victims.
What is known is that, of the missing children reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who are also likely child sex trafficking victims, 67 percent were in the care of child welfare when they went missing.
What is also heartbreaking is that those children under the care of child welfare agencies that are missing may never be reported as such.
Most states don’t have laws which require child welfare agencies to report a child missing to the police. While there may be a requirement to list them in the FBI database, there is no guarantee that police departments will ever see these reports.
Sex trafficking can also occur in any state in the U.S. No state is off-limits.
For example, in New York last month, a couple was arrested for allegedly kidnapping two Amish sisters, ages 7 and 12.
It is not known whether the alleged perpetrators were involved in sex trafficking. The media and the police department may never disclose this information to the public.
(Image Source: The Diamondback)
Also, a man was arrested in North Carolina in August 2014 and charged with Human Trafficking Child Victim and Abduction of Children. The report states that police believe the alleged trafficker “recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided or obtained by any means,” a 17-year-old female with the intent that she “be held in sexual servitude.”
Capt. Jeff Wood, of the Burlington Police Department said, “They truly become a slave."
How do children become victims of sex trafficking? Unfortunately, it is very easy.
Traffickers prey on our children in shopping malls, schools, bus stations, on the streets and just about anywhere children frequent.
Traffickers target those children who appear vulnerable, those that can be tricked, and those that are traumatized by the pimp. The pimp then uses psychological and often physical manipulation to get the victim to perform sex acts.
Children who lack emotional support from their parents are highly susceptible to believing that the pimp loves them and will care for them when others in their lives may have failed them.
Pimps will wait however long it takes to win a child over by buying gifts, telling them that they are loved, or by giving them a place to stay. The victims often do not realize that they are being deceived. Rather they believe that the pimp is their boyfriend or new "father figure."
Photo Credit: AP
Preventing children from becoming vulnerable to sex trafficking requires parents to take the time to communicate with them on a daily basis. Not just in passing or while driving them to school or other activity.
Parents must stop what they are doing. Turn off the television and turn off the phone. They need to look at their children and without interference from the outside world, really listen to what they are saying and even what they are not saying.
Parents must also know their children’s friends. Their friends, who may be victims themselves, often lead other children into a world of sex trafficking simply because they were ordered by their pimp to bring in fresh faces.
Awareness, education, and parental involvement in children’s lives, hold the key to keeping children "safer" from sex trafficking.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that children will ever be 100 percent safe from sex trafficking because the bounty placed on a child’s innocence is potentially too high for a sex trafficker to overlook.
If parents aren’t there to listen to their children, sex traffickers who are increasingly using the Internet and social networking sites to gain access to our kids, will surely be glad to listen for them.
Feature Image: AFP PHOTO/ PUNIT PARANJPE
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