- Sex trafficking of children is a global and growing issue.
- Police and government agencies report they have seen the phenomenon of child sex trafficking increase tenfold over the last two years, and the abuse is still on the rise.
- The internet is being used as a tool to sell children for sex. There are countless ads that offer “erotic services” with juveniles photographed in the ads. This problem is wide-spread and the ease of use and secrecy of the internet furthers the hidden nature of this crime.
- Police report that vicious pimp circuits and organized crime rings exist that force children and teenagers into sexual exploitation.
- Police are successfully uncovering and prosecuting the perpetrators of this crime. However, one California Assistant District Attorney said, “We just never thought to ask ourselves the question – what are we going to do with the children we recover? In our experience, most of them do not have a safe, loving home to return to.”
- “The greatest factor in promoting child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation is the demand for younger and younger victims. Most women in prostitution are trafficked into the sex industry as children. Worldwide, the average age of entrance into prostitution is 13.” (1)
- The issue of sex trafficking is global and growing. Current statistics estimate that there are an estimated 27 million human trafficking victims worldwide at any time. There are approximately 4.5 million sex trafficking victims around the world; 98% of those victims are women and girls. Trafficking is a $32 billion dollar a year industry.(2)
- According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry — just behind drug trafficking — with children accounting for roughly half of all victims.(3)
- According to a report from the United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) eighty-three percent of sex trafficking victims in the United States were identified as U.S. citizens.(4)
- “Driven by demand and fueled by the ease and secrecy of the internet, we are facing a crisis of child exploitation in this nation.” –Congressman Chris Smith, Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus Chair
- Due to the hidden nature of the crime of sex trafficking, the exact number of domestic children being trafficked in the United States is unknown, but a University of Pennsylvania study estimated nearly 300,000 youth in the United States were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses. The Justice Department’s National Incidence Study reported that 1.7 million children run away or are thrown away each year, with just 357,600 (21%) of them reported as missing to the police. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that at least 100,000 children are caught up in the insidious world of child prostitution each year: 55% of street girls engage in prostitution; at least 75% of those work for a pimp.(5)
- Though statistics vary, experts agree that the numbers grossly understate the problem, as this is such a hidden crime.
- Demand for prostitution (and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation) of children is steady, and profit to sex traffickers, or pimps, has increased. Together, these factors have helped fuel sex trafficking of children. Pimps/traffickers prey on vulnerable youth (primarily girls) and groom their victims to enter “the life” of prostitution. They manipulate and abuse—physically, mentally, and emotionally—their victims to maintain control. Additionally, technological advances such as cellular telephones and the Internet have facilitated the demand for child sex trafficking. These technologies can rapidly connect buyers of commercial sex with trafficking victims while simultaneously distancing the perpetrator from the criminal transactions.(6)
- Children exploited through prostitution report they typically are given a quota by their trafficker/pimp of 10 to 15 buyers per night…Utilizing a conservative estimate, a domestic minor sex trafficking victim …would be raped by 6,000 buyers during the course of her victimization through prostitution.(7)
- The average age of U.S. children being forced into child prostitution (i.e. sex trafficking) is 12–14 years old.(8)
- As late as 2009, there were only three homes for minor victims of sex trafficking in the United States with a total of 32 beds, none of them Christian homes. Today, that number has grown to approximately ten homes totaling over 150 available beds, which isn’t even enough beds for the children rescued in just the Sacramento area.(9)
- Domestic sex trafficking of minors is a prominent and growing issue in the greater Sacramento area. In the last several years, a local FBI task force has recovered over 300 girls being sold for sex; the youngest was eleven years old. Of the 300 girls rescued in the Sacramento area, a large percentage of them have no home, no family, and no services to support them.(10)
- Nearly one- third of Tanzanian girls experience sexual violence before they turn 18, a UNICEF survey recently found.(11)
- There are no homes for victims in the entire country of Tanzania for minor children being trafficked for sex. Courage House Tanzania is the first home of its kind.(12)
- Child sex trafficking is a big problem in the State of Hawaii. There are no homes for children rescued out of trafficking in Hawaii.(13)
Sex trafficking is not just happening in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Houston; it is happening in smaller cities like Toledo, Sacramento, and Jackson. While law enforcement at the state and federal level is pleased with the increased arrests and prosecution (including stiff jail sentences) for the individuals that traffic these young girls, these same law enforcement officers express frustration and are broken-hearted at the lack of resources for the young victims that are rescued.
Typically, law enforcement has few options when recovering underage victims of sex trafficking:
Return them to their homes…
- IF the homes are determined to be safe and IF the parents want them returned. Sadly, the majority of them do not.
- Demographically, the majority of victims recovered average 14 years old and are runaways that have been sexually abused in their biological and/or foster home.
- Emergency children’s shelters, which accommodate children that are taken from their abusive homes by law enforcement or Child Protective Services (CPS).
Take them to a shelter or children’s receiving home:
- These shelters are not lock-down facilities and there are no means to force the girls to stay since they aren’t charged with a crime.
- The shelters have no tailored programs/therapy for the minor victims that specifically address the trauma associated with sex trafficking.
- The shelters do not provide for long-term care of any children as they typically place these children within a foster family within 30 days. Staying for only 30 days makes it impossible to build trust with the child victims, let alone begin any meaningful treatment. Many of the victims rescued from sex trafficking have already run away numerous times from a foster family or group home setting and will do so again.
- These sexually exploited children often pose a problem for this type of shelter, as local police and shelter staff report recovered victims often recruit other children at the shelter for their pimps.
Take them to Juvenile Hall:
- The last resort for law enforcement in cities where there are no long term homes is to take the children to Juvenile Hall.
- To stay here, the minors must be charged with prostitution or another crime, thus they are not treated as victims. However, law enforcement knows better than anyone that these children are victims, not criminals.
- Within the juvenile detention facility, treatment plans are only aligned with criminal charges, which are unrelated to sexual exploitation and therefore ineffective in addressing the health and emotional issues these children face.
- Left untreated, many of these children will return to a life on the streets after completing their sentences, where their chances for survival are slim.
- Law enforcement resists this option, but often finds it necessary to ensure the child’s safety and their testimony against the accused perpetrator.
Former Sacramento, California Police Chief Rick Braziel confirms this in his letter to Courage Worldwide founder, Jenny Williamson: “These child victims need an alternative to the juvenile system that will provide them with a chance; a chance to belong, to feel safe and to be loved. They desperately need a home, one that will cater to their very unique needs. Currently, there are just a handful of homes in the country that provide services exclusively for this vulnerable population.”
A BETTER SOLUTION IS NEEDED
All three of these alternatives and locations are not safe houses and the locations are known to the criminals that have been exploiting and selling the girls. According to the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force Report “Perhaps most important, these girls need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Shelter is one of trafficking victim’s most critical needs, but many states do not have enough appropriate shelter space to support the needs of human trafficking victims. Existing shelters often do not have the funding resources to serve their own target population, much less the capacity to meet the unique needs of victims of sexual exploitation. The programs at these shelters are not relevant to the victims of the sex industry. In addition, many of the existing shelters do not provide any health (physical or mental) screenings.”(14)
“The issue of safety for staff, other residents, and the girls themselves was expressed across sites. In the case of runaway and homeless shelters and drop-in centers, the location was often known to the trafficker/pimp. In fact, several sites reported cases of traffickers recruiting girls from the facility”(15).
- Courage Worldwide is building Courage Houses – homes for children rescued out of sex trafficking. The first homes in Northern California and Tanzania, Africa opened on August 1, 2011 and are designed so that they are scalable, sustainable, and replicable in every city in the United States and in countries around the world.
- Courage House is not just a program; it is a home. The Courage House facility and program is intentionally designed to provide a long-term home as opposed to an opportunity to graduate from a program. Statistics show the majority of the young women who are victims of this crime do not have safe homes and loving families to return to once they have “graduated from the program.” Trauma specialists report that the timeframe of “just beginning” to recover from this type of complex trauma takes a minimum of 4 to 5 years.
- The location of Courage House is undisclosed so perpetrators cannot find the girls.
- Each girl will have an individual Unique Life Plan (ULP) that will address her physical, emotional, psychological, educational, psychosocial and spiritual needs. In addition, resources will be provided and plans will be created to ensure each girl’s successful transition to independent, self-sufficient living.
- Whether a girl’s placement is voluntary or mandatory, we recognize these children are prone to run away because of their trauma and their difficulty in navigating and participating in healthy relationships. We will have protocols in place as part of each girl’s life plan to address the triggers of running away. In addition, Courage House offers a menu of activities that are intentionally designed to daily nurture the mind and body of each girl in a healthy, therapeutic way (i.e. horseback riding, kick boxing, art and dance classes, and various educational and special interest courses).
- There will be no minimum stay defined at Courage House. Girls can stay at the home until they are 18 years old. We anticipate establishing Courage House Too, a home for girls who are “aging out,” but who still require structure, therapy, and an assisted transition towards independent living whether that might be attending college, working a job, or vocational training.
The information provided below is to help you realize the enormity and scope of sex trafficking in the United States and around the world. As you read, we believe you’ll begin to see sex trafficking as we do – a form of modern day slavery. We believe in a future where children will not be sold for sex. Don’t stop with just educating yourself about the problem, let the knowledge you obtain propel you into action.
Believe with us.
Together we can change the world – one individual at a time.
Resources / Information:
Sex Slavery In The ER – By Jessica Munoz, RN, BSN, MSN, APRN- RX, FNP-BC and Volunteer Director Courage House Hawaii Project, who will be speaking at The Response, our first annual sex trafficking summit, on February 22 & 23, 2013.
Red Flags – By Jessica Munoz, RN, BSN, MSN, APRN- RX, FNP-BC and Volunteer Director Courage House Hawaii Project, who will be speaking at The Response, our first annual sex trafficking summit, on February 22 & 23, 2013.
(1) U.S. Department of Justice, Child Exploitation; Obscenity Section
(2) California Human Trafficking Report, 2012.
(3) USATODAY.com, 1/22/2012. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2012-01-22-us-human-trafficking_N.htm
(4) Juvenile Justice Information Exchange 5/01/2011. http://jjie.org/justice-department-report-sheds-lights-on-human-trafficking-stats/14355
(5) Allen, Ernie. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children briefing, 7/21/2009. http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/NewsEventServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=4079 (Accessed 8/15/2011)
(6) 2011 Congressional Research Service Report
(7) The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America’s Prostituted Children, Shared Hope International, May 2009, page 20.
(8) US Department of Justice, Child Prostitution: Domestic Sex Trafficking of Minors http://www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html (Accessed 8/15/2011)
(9) Organization and personal experience, CWW research
(10) FBI Innocence Lost Task Force
(11) BBC, Tanzania study shows one in three girls sexually abused, Created 9/9/2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14468277 (Accessed 8/15/2011)
(12) Organization and personal experience, CWW research
(13) Organization and personal experience, CWW research
(14) The California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force released their report in December 2007
(15) Finding a Path to Recovery: Residential Facilities for Minor Victims of Domestic Sex Trafficking by Heather J. Clawson, Ph.D. and Lisa Goldbblatt Grace, LICSW September 2007