Mar 07, 2011
by April Hedrick

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (Shared Hope International) -

Shared Hope International has been working internationally for a decade to combat trafficking. The non-profit’s mission statement: “Shared Hope International exists to rescue and restore women and children in crisis. We are leaders in a worldwide effort to prevent and eradicate sex trafficking and slavery through education and public awareness.”

Recently they have brought special attention to the issue here in the United States with a focus on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. Simply put, American girls under age 18 sold for sex in America. There are at least 100,000 children prostituted in America every year.

Shared Hope International researched Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) with a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice. The main way they did this was by conducting more than a dozen field assessments in cities spread across America, including Phoenix. (Click here to read the report on Phoenix in particular.) They put together a concise Fact Sheet which gives a good overview of the issue. Here are some excerpts:

Scope of the problem

• At least 100,000 children are used in prostitution every year in the United States.

• The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old.

• Prostituted girls are often controlled by a pimp who recruits them into sex trafficking by posing as a boyfriend, caretaker, and protector.

• The three primary manifestations of child sex trafficking in America are: pimp-controlled prostitution, familial prostitution, and/or survival sex.

The Business of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking of America’s children is driven by demand for the commercial sex acts they perform. Demand of buyers – people who rent the body of a child for sexual purposes or entertainment – allows the business of child sex trafficking to continue. The industry grows as traffickers seek to fulfill the demand by targeting and recruiting more of America’s youth for sexual exploitation.

AMERICAN CHILDREN ARE THE VICTIMS. American children are easy targets for sex traffickers. The vulnerability is the child’s age. Pre-teen and adolescent girls are especially susceptible to the deception and manipulation of traffickers. Traffickers target locations that commonly attract youth like schools, malls, parks, even shelters and group homes.

WHO ARE THE TRAFFICKERS? A trafficker is anyone who profits by receiving cash or other benefits in exchange for sex with a minor. These criminals are often called pimps. Across the United States, family members, friends, and “boyfriends” were identified as pimps.

WHO ARE THE BUYERS? Many buyers are men; however, the buyers can be anyone - young and old, locals and tourists, military and civilian, students and professionals, family and strangers.

Exploited children are often labeled “child prostitutes” or juvenile delinquents and punished for the crime that is committed against them. Victims of domestic minor sex trafficking are in detention facilities across the country for charges of prostitution while those who buy sex from them are free and their traffickers frequently escape detection.

Deterring Demand

Buyers receive little or no penalty for purchasing commercial sex from a minor though laws are in place to prosecute them. Despite their integral role in fueling the commercial sex industry, little priority is placed on arresting and prosecuting the “johns.” As long as there is a buyer of commercial sex, there will be child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Recruitment and Pimp Control

Traffickers learn the psychology of their young victims and master the manipulation methods necessary to deceptively lure children into sexual exploitation. The trafficker’s goal is to create and exploit vulnerabilities which will make a child completely dependent and bonded to their exploiter. The trafficker’s ultimate goal is profit.

Next steps
• Child victims of sex trafficking must be identified and treated as victims.

• The arrest and prosecution of buyers must be made a priority.

• Appropriate protective shelter and services are needed for the protection and restoration of child sex trafficking victims.

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