Julie McDonald Commentary: Book Unveils Hidden World of Sexual Slavery

On New Year’s Day, I stood with three of my sisters at the bottom of a staircase, watching my 15-year-old niece parade down the steps, modeling each of her older cousin’s formal dresses, trying to decide which to wear to her Tolo Dance.

That’s what life is supposed to be like for young girls.

But on Saturday, I read a book telling about 11- and 12-year-old girls living a life of horror — beaten, raped, and sexually used and abused every day on the streets of America.

The eye-opening book, “Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children,” was written by former 3rd District Congresswoman Linda Smith, with Cindy Coloma, author of a half-dozen novels. I received the book after donating to Smith’s Vancouver-based Shared Hope International, a group dedicated to eradicating sexual slavery.

As I began reading, I couldn’t help thinking how Smith seemed a bit overzealous in viewing prostitutes as victims. Without realizing it, I, like many, held the stereotype conveyed by the title of Xaviera Hollander’s 1971 book, “The Happy Hooker.” These women must enjoy sex with multiple partners, earning money quickly and easily, living a fast lifestyle. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they leave?

I know better now.

By the time I finished the 168-page book, I had experienced anger, sadness, heartbreak, and an overwhelming sense of how oblivious we are to what’s happening in our own communities. No wonder Smith is dedicating her life to rescuing and restoring these young girls.

Some of them came from good homes, with loving families searching for their missing daughters. Others ran away from physical or sexual abuse by family members or neighbors; some lived in foster care or group homes. Already vulnerable, these innocent young girls were wooed by older boyfriends with gifts, attention, and promises of love, affection and security.

The boyfriends — aka pimps — sought to sever the girls’ relationships with friends, family members, and anyone else who might care. Then, they swept them away from homes and families, and eventually begged them to help bring in money — only for a little while.

Often these monsters beat and repeatedly gang-rape these young girls, destroying any vestige of self-esteem, leaving them broken, dependent, and eager to please to avoid further beatings.

Some girls trade sex for food, shelter, or transportation. Other children are forced to engage in sexual acts while being videotaped so that “upstanding” citizens can view such perversion from the privacy of their homes.

It’s all sexual trafficking of domestic minors. And it wouldn’t happen without demand for the product.

In her introduction, Smith describes a five-day visit to Mumbai, India, in 1998. She saw a young girl, about the age of her granddaughter, with a doomed look in her eyes and “the scent of a thousand men” upon her. When she embraced the young girl, her life’s mission changed.

After serving a decade in the state Legislature and four years in Congress, Smith challenged Sen. Patty Murray in 1998 and lost.

Although supporters wanted her to seek another political office, after returning from India, Smith and her husband, Vern, created the nonprofit Shared Hope International to provide safe homes for victims of worldwide sex trafficking.

Instead of devoting her tireless energy to politics, Smith has rescued thousands of young women, focused international attention on the sexual slave trade of children — including 100,000 in the United States each year — and zeroed in on eliminating the demand by buyers, or “johns,” who perpetuate the $9.5 billion a year industry.

Shared Hope International’s Web site is at http://www.sharedhope.org.

source: http://www.chronline.com/articles/2010/01/05/opinion/commentary/doc4b43832e76c5c815804866.txt

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 8:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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