This week, the founder of a prominent Haitian children’s charity admitted to using the promise of food, shelter, and clean clothes to lure in homeless Haitian boys for sex. But this story is just one of many involving American citizens traveling to developing countries to victimize children. It’s called child sex tourism, and it’s a form of human trafficking happening next door.
Doug Perlitz founded Project Pierre Toussaint in Northern Haiti years before the earthquake put the country in the headlines. It provided homeless boys a place to sleep, food, an education, and other services. But it also provided Perlitz a steady stream of children to rape. This past week, he pled guilty to giving food, shelter, and toys to eight young Haitian boys in exchange for sex. However, some Haitian sources indicate the actual number of children who have been identified as Perlitz’s victims is much higher, around 30. The child sex tourism scheme went on for years, mostly because local staff members were too afraid of Perlitz and losing their jobs to speak up. Perlitz even used his clout in the community with religious leaders to help him conceal his abuse. And when boys from his shelter showed up at the hospital with rectal bleeding, they were diagnosed with typhoid and sent back to Perlitz.
But Perlitz isn’t the only one. Last year Connecticut-native Edgardo Sensei was indicted for taking multiple child pornography road trips through Nicaragua preying on young girls. He bribed a working mother with money, jewelry, and perfume to let him film himself having sex with her four-year-old daughter and forced another six-year-old girl to make similar films with a sadomasochistic twist. And previous to that, Florida resident Kent Frank was convicted of traveling to Cambodia several times to have sex with underage girls and photograph them for profit. The list of heinous deeds and the American men who commit them overseas goes on from there.
These stories and other tales of the experiences of modern-day slaves are detailed in the updated version of The Slave Next Door, which is now available in paperback. The book, written by Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter, details the narratives of several modern-day slavery cases and the people involved in them. It paints a picture both of the frightening severity of child sex tourism, forced prostitution, and abusive domestic servitude and gives the reader hope to end these practices. The updated version also has a new analysis of recent Trafficking in Persons reports, the Obama Administration’s approach to fighting human trafficking, and updated information from the front lines. It’s a great read and one I highly recommend.
Sex tourism perpetrated by American citizens is hard for under-resourced countries like Haiti and Nicaragua to fight. Therefore, the U.S. needs to take responsibility for their citizens and prevent them from traveling overseas to abuse kids. And the first step to that is an informed citizenry demanding they take action.