Sex trafficking—the heinous act of duping teenage (or pre-teen) girls into a life of prostitution—only occurs in third-world countries, right? Oh so wrong! As accustomed as we can be toward turning a “blind eye” to that which we’d prefer didn’t exist, it is no surprise that most folks are quick to deny that sex slavery may very well be happening in their cities, towns and suburbs. The victims could be anyone’s daughter, relative or acquaintance–and secondarily, all who love and know them. Thanks to the many who are willing to pay big bucks to “turn tricks” with a young girl, the sex trade has become so epidemic and so lucrative that sleazy pimps are only part of the scene. Eager to get a big chunk of the action, organized crime and drug cartels have joined the foray. U.S. law enforcement agencies estimate that 100,000 girls are victims of the avarice and perpetuation of paid sex.
This topic has been on my radar and infuriating me for several years. As coordinator of Whole Man Network, I arranged for the Denver-based organization Mile High Women’s Outreach Center (MHWOC) to educate participants about sex trafficking. A few days ago I attended an MHWOC showing of the video “Chosen,” produced by Shared Hope International, followed by a candid discussion of this atrocious, global modern-day slavery practice. For me, the most salient personal story in the video involved an articulate, beautiful 17-year-old girl—a straight-A high school student, cheerleader and active member of her community. Promised an exciting new life and ten times her waitress earnings, this seemingly-sophisticated Kansas girl came ever so close to unknowingly joining a prostitution ring. Fortunately, her caring ex-boyfriend became suspicious enough to tell his and her parents and ultimately save her from degradation.
Traffickers prey on vulnerable youth wherever they can find them, such as around schools, shopping malls, arcades, parks, etc. These glib guys are adept at gathering information through seemingly innocent conversations. They especially exploit girls who are lonely, lost, have a history of being physically and/or sexually abused, are runaways, throwaways, and the like. These charming, antisocial predators, most in their 20’s, are adept at luring the girls with acts of kindness and affection, lavish gifts and glamorous promises. They typically offer the girls the special attention they lack, often pretending to become their boyfriends. They gradually groom them for prostitution, such as by getting them to dance at a strip club and then have sex with them. The initial princess treatment often shifts to pimps’ physical abuse and threats, such as harming the girl’s family if she escapes. Frightened, filled with shame, and burning their bridges with family and friends, the trapped girls feel there is no safe turning back.
Annual FBI stings and local police response serve to stop some fraction of the trafficking. What YOU can do is:
- Familiarize yourself and loved ones with the warning signs described above.
- Share this blog and discuss your concerns about this “cancer” with others.
- Notify authorities about suspected predators and/or girls boasting special attention, gifts, and/or outlandish promises from older guys (My daughter knew one such girl.)
- Learn more from, refer people to, and financially support any of the below national resources: