Child sex trafficking is not always as it appears to be. Typically, when we think of children being trafficked, we often think it is done by a random person of a much older age who is profiting off children performing sexual acts. In a new CNN article by Theresa Waldrop, child sex trafficking is broken down for a clearer understanding.
First: Waldrop writes that the majority of child sex trafficking victims know their exploiters. Research shows that impoverished children are more likely to be trafficked, but that is often the type of environment the exploiter likes to choose their victims from. “As much as stories might come out about conspiracies to target people who are relatively safe, relatively less vulnerable, the truth is on the hotline,” said Robert Beiser, the strategic initiatives director for sex trafficking at Polaris, which runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The article mentions that there is no way to determine exactly how many child sex trafficking victims there are. According to Samantha Vardaman at Shared Hope International, it also depends on whether authorities identify them as a juvenile delinquent, a child welfare case, or a runaway. “The label that gets assigned to that child is going to dictate whether they ever get counted in the base number of commercial sexual exploitation,” Vardaman said.
The U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 22,326 trafficking victims and survivors last year, according to CNN. Waldrop writes that many victims are usually running away from harm and that men are almost always the exploiters. “Maybe they’ve been dating them a couple of weeks. Maybe they think he’s a manager who’s going to set up their dance careers,” Lloyd said. “I’ve seen girls who were thinking they were going to have a career in the entertainment industry.”
As we saw with Cyntoia Brown, many of the victims are criminalized, the article reads. Prostitution and buying sex, in most states, are “relatively equivalent crimes,” Beiser said, “even though a person in prostitution may be doing it so that they’re not homeless, or so that they can feed themselves. But no one is buying sex out of some sort of basic need for survival.” Girls picked up by police are usually charged with a crime.
With the nation dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, even more children are now at risk. “Since the Covid pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in calls for emergency shelter,” Beiser said.
He continued: “We’re going to see the echoes of what Covid has done to make people more economically vulnerable, unfortunately for years to come, if we don’t put the right policies in place to help people.” He added that “many nonprofits have had to close because they’re not getting the resources that they need.”
Read the full article here.