An investigation by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) reveals a side of American society no one wants to acknowledge:
In the US, poverty, deprivation and exploitation draw thousands of its own children down into a dark underworld that offers few ways out.
It is a world few Americans are aware of. But tens of thousands of American children are thought to be sexually exploited every year.
It’s believed that every night hundreds are sold for sex.
Ian Pannell adds (with my emphasis):
“Trafficking” often conjures images of people from other countries being smuggled over land and across the sea and then forced to work against their will in foreign lands. People are trafficked into America from Mexico, Central and South America. But the vast majority of children bought and sold for sex every night in the United States are American kids.
Tara John contributes these disturbing facts:
Despite rescuing 600 children last year, the FBI says child sex abuse is at epidemic levels where tens of thousands of children are believed to be sexually exploited in the country each year. “The level of paedophilia is unprecedented right now,” Joseph Campbell of the FBI told the BBC.
Campbell, who works in the Criminal Investigation Division, has seen individuals from all walks of life engaged in both child pornography and child exploitation, calling it a problem “almost at an epidemic level.”
Hundreds of American children are also being sold into sex, according to the BBC, where poverty and neglect are thought to be some of the main reasons why young kids are vulnerable to sex trafficking.
It’s not just about the sex, says Dana Ford:
[T]his subtle, subversive mix of romantic love and parental care can create havoc in the mind of an adolescent, said Anique Whitmore, a forensic psychologist in Atlanta.
“What we know about sex crimes is that it’s not about sexual pleasure. It’s about control,” said Whitmore. “What is similar to some of those girls that I work with is their self-esteem or lack thereof. You either become vulnerable to a man on the street or a man you meet in school. You become vulnerable because you’re looking for attention.”
It is, of course, about money. Ines Novacic says the targets are typical: “a teenager from a broken home or rough neighborhood falling victim to a predator”:
Sex trafficking is a crime most people associate with foreign women or girls — from Latin America, Asia, or Eastern Europe — but pimps and criminal gangs across America are increasingly targeting runaways from the U.S., typically teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds, who they force into prostitution. Experts say that the nature of the crime and the organized gang networks involved make it difficult to estimate exactly how many children are victimized, but according to the FBI, up to 300,000 children across America could be at risk. The Bureau classified human trafficking as the third largest and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Anti-sex trafficking groups estimate that, annually, it’s a $10 billion business in America alone.
While more attention has been paid to female victims, boys are also increasingly being victimized by sex trafficking, and their numbers appear to be underestimated for a variety of reasons.
Earlier this year, the AAP’s Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect published a clinical report entitled, “Child Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Health Care Needs of Victims,” which provides education and guidance for children’s passionate and natural advocates: their pediatricians.