Awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the United States is growing, however, as are arrests and prosecutions of the traffickers. Just last week, a Maryland man was sentenced to 37 years in prison for his role in a sex trafficking operation. "This defendant violently preyed upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society. He sought out troubled young girls and, using physical violence, drugs, guns and lies, coerced them into prostitution for his own benefit," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases."
While arresting and prosecuting the traffickers is vital, efforts cannot stop there. As Kristoff also noted, "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." Minor victims have complex needs and have experienced incredible trauma. There is a dearth of services for them, though.
As a Polaris Project Action Alert points out, "Each year, at least 100,000 children are victimized through commercial sex and prostitution within the United States. Particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking are runaway children, an estimated 33% of them are lured into prostitution within the first 48 hours of leaving home. Unfortunately, victims of sex trafficking, including children, are commonly overlooked in most state and federal efforts to respond to the brutal crime. A mere 80 beds in shelters nationwide are available to provide the safe shelter and professional health and social services that these victims need."
Currently, the House (HR 5575 by Rep. Maloney NY14) and Senate (S 2925 by Sen. Wyden OR) are reviewing bills that would provide crucial funding to develop and enhance comprehensive, collaborative efforts to combat the sex trafficking in the U.S. by providing six block grants of $2,500,000 each to state or local government entities who have designed a holistic approach to investigating, prosecuting and deterring sex trafficking, and providing special services and shelter to the victims.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to review the bill on 7/29/2010. Click this link to learn more about how to urge your senators to support funding for fighting trafficking and supporting victims and survivors.