The sale of children in our country is a growing industry. Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is modern day slavery, and the most vulnerable to becoming victims in this country are children.
In accordance with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) 2000, DMST is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a U.S. citizen(s) or legal permanent resident(s) under the age of 18 for the purpose of prostitution, pornography or erotic stripping/dancing. Payment for the sex act can be anything of value given to or received by any person (e.g., drugs, food, accommodations).
Since DMST mostly exists underground it is difficult to know the exact number of victims. However, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that there are 100,000 children, both boys and girls, in America that are sold into prostitution each year. The average age of entry is 12-14.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that each year in the U.S. approximately 450,000 children run away from home. Research indicates that 33 percent of teen runaways and throwaways will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
Being a child represents inherent vulnerability and traffickers are experts in recognizing these vulnerabilities. Traffickers know the children who have emotional and physical needs that are not being met and use these to their advantage. They learn their victims’ insecurities and exploit their vulnerabilities.
Victims of child sexual exploitation come from cities, small towns, and rural areas of every corner of the country. They could be of any age, ethnicity, race, religion, socio-economic class or geographic area. Children who are most vulnerable are neglected, runaways, throwaways, homeless, poor, involved in drugs, or who have a history of abuse, and are within foster care or child protective services.
There is hope.
What traffickers and buyers do to children is heartbreaking. This is a true story of a survivor we met and who gave us permission to share her story:
“I am a victim and survivor of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. At the age of 16 a lot of things in my life were taking a toll on my actions, which caused desperation and loneliness. These things led me into a deep hole of depression as well as physical, mental and emotional abuse.
“It all began on the Internet. There I met a guy who told me that I was beautiful enough to become a model, become famous and have everything in the world that I could ever want. Being sixteen, gullible and being very mixed up, this sounded like a dream. Sadly, I believed every word he told me. That night we exchanged telephone numbers and decided to chat outside of the Internet. After talking with him at length I was convinced, and he lured me into thinking I could be someone I could never have imagined myself to be.
“I remember barely sleeping that night because I was so excited. The next day he came to my father’s home and picked me up so that we could, as he said ‘Glamour Up.’ We went to buy clothes, and to get my hair done. I really believed it was legit and this was going to be the first day of a new life. After the ‘Glamour Treatment’ he took me to his apartment and sat down to talk about things. He offered me a drink and I accepted. Unfortunately, there was something mixed in the drink. Hours later, I found myself tied to a bed in a secluded room. My new “friend” came in to tell me everything was going to be okay. Minutes later the first man came in and then a second and a third. They didn’t stop coming.”
Two years later this young lady was rescued in an FBI sting. She went on to get help, got her GED and attended Community College.
Being removed from the situation of trafficking is just the beginning of a journey toward freedom and healing. We believe there is hope for putting an end to this crime against children if we all become involved in fighting this injustice. Please contact us if you would like to become involved in this anti-trafficking movement.