By Nicholas D. Kristof
Against all odds, this year’s publishing sensation is a trio of thrillers by a dead Swede relating tangentially to human trafficking and sexual abuse. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series tops the best-seller lists. More than 150 years ago, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” helped lay the groundwork for the end of slavery. Let’s hope that these novels help build pressure on trafficking as a modern echo of slavery.
Human trafficking tends to get ignored because it is an indelicate, sordid topic, with troubled victims who don’t make great poster children for family values. Indeed, many of the victims are rebellious teenage girls — often runaways — who have been in trouble with their parents and the law, and at times they think they love their pimps.
Because trafficking gets ignored, it rarely is a top priority for law enforcement officials — so it seems to be growing. Various reports and studies, none of them particularly reliable, suggest that between 100,000 and 600,000 children may be involved in prostitution in the United States, with the numbers increasing.
Just last month, police freed a 12-year-old girl who they said had been imprisoned in a Knights Inn hotel in Laurel, Md. The police charged a 42-year-old man, Derwin Smith, with human trafficking and false imprisonment in connection with the case.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department said that Mr. Smith met the girl in a seedy area, had sex with her and then transported her back and forth from Washington, D.C., to Atlantic City, N.J., while prostituting her.
“The juvenile advised that all of the money made was collected and kept by the suspect,” the police department said in a statement. “At one point, the victim conveyed to the suspect that she wanted to return home, but he held her against her will.”
Just two days later, the same police force freed three other young women from a Garden Inn about a block away. They were 16, 19 and 23, and police officials accused a 23-year-old man, Gabriel Dreke-Hernandez, of pimping them.
Police said that Mr. Dreke-Hernandez had kidnapped the 19-year-old from a party and had taken her to a hotel room. “Once at the hotel,” the police statement said, Mr. Dreke-Hernandez allegedly “grabbed her around the throat and began to choke her. Hernandez then pushed her head against the wall several times before placing a knife to her throat and demanding that she follow his commands.
“The female further advised that all of the money made was collected and kept by the suspect. At one point, she indicated that she would not prostitute any longer and the suspect subsequently pulled her into the bathroom and threatened her again with a knife.”
Police officials did not release details about the 16-year-old and 23-year-old, though they said customers for the teenager had been sought on the Internet.
There’s a misperception in America that “sex trafficking” is mostly about foreigners smuggled into the U.S. That exists. But I’ve concluded that the biggest problem and worst abuses involve not foreign women but home-grown runaway kids.
To read the rest of the article, follow this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/opinion/15kristof.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=nicholas%20d.%20kristof&st=cse