Part of the Sex-Trafficking: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Child Series
Michelle hated “The Big Game.” A yearly event, her owner always shipped her and a few others from his “stable” across the country to wherever it was being held. She arrived days in advance and began making her appointments, charging twice the normal rate. Customers going to this sporting event had lots of money to spend, so they paid more, and she had to work harder.
Now 14-years-old, Michelle remembered her dad and little brother had often talked of going to The Big Game someday and now, even five years later she still wondered if she’d run into them among the crowds outside the stadium.
She hoped not.
What Is Sex Trafficking?
Sex trafficking is defined as using force, fraud, or coercion to compel a victim to engage in sex acts for commercial purposes. Some victims of sex trafficking are abducted and never return home. Others are coerced into engaging in sex acts in their community without their families’ knowledge. Still others are trafficked and sold for a period of time until they are too old or otherwise no longer marketable as a sex slave, and cast out by their abuser. A lucky few are rescued by law enforcement or other agents of compassion and returned to their families.
How Are Children Trafficked?
Sex traffickers are expert psychological manipulators, knowing the motives and fears of American youth and how best to trap them for exploitation. Like many white-collar executives, they read books on leadership, motivation and adapt the various techniques taught so that they can keep their "stable" of victims under their control.
Once the trafficker has control of a child for exploitation, the child becomes "seasoned" to cooperate. Seasoning a child into the life of sex trafficking means they use a combination of psychological manipulation, abuse, rape and torture until there is no resistance left in the child. This may take hours, days, or weeks depending on the individual; but this onslaught of abuse and manipulation rarely fails. The child becomes broken and willing to do anything, in order to gain her abuser’s favor and to avoid further punishment and degradation.
The three primary methods sex traffickers use are:
- Force: The child must engage in the sex acts under threat of violence against himself or his family.
- Fraud: The child must engage in the sex acts due to threats of blackmail; the trafficker has information or evidence against the victim the child does not want revealed. Some sex traffickers convince the children that their family members need or want them to engage in the industry for various reasons.
- Coercion: The child must engage in the sex acts in order to earn money they need or gifts they want, perhaps to continue receiving drugs they have become addicted to, or to earn their “freedom” from a debt they supposedly owe. Often, foreign youths are trafficked into the United States with promises of citizenship and a better life only to be told once they arrive that they have to work to “earn” their citizenship first. Such victims are almost never actually set free, however. The most common method of coercion is the “boyfriend” ploy. This involves a pimp who gets to know a young girl and begins to date her, buy her lavish gifts and give her attention. Eventually he may coerce her to engage in sex acts with others in order to “help him” in some way or make it possible for them to earn the money so they can be together. He may convince her to run away from home to live with him if her home situation is less than ideal. Or, he may abduct her.
Where Are Children Trafficked For Sex?
There is big money to be made in the growing and lucrative sex market. Young girls or boys are sold for as much as $400 for a half-hour (tragically, the younger they are, the higher the rate). Children are forced to work up to 20 hours a day. This exploitation happens in every major city in the U.S. because there are enough buyers willing to pay for it.
At any given time, there are approximately two million children being trafficked globally for sex — an industry that rakes in a staggering $37 billion per year. In comparison, McDonalds (the second-largest fast food chain in the world) brings in $27.5 billion per year. For example, a 2014 report estimated the underground sex economy was valued between $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado and $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia. Both boys and girls are being trafficked in large numbers across the nation — and that demand is only increasing, fueled by various factors such as digital pornography and a social decline in the respect for intimacy surrounding sex and marriage.