When I talk about human trafficking in America, some people are shocked to learn it happens here. Many think that it’s something happening “over there,” over there being a vague conglomeration of Eastern European, Asian, and African countries. Maybe traffickers take a pit stop in the good ol’ U.S.of.A. on their way to parts unknown, but surely they don’t stay. We have laws against that sort of thing. Don’t we?
When someone finally understands that trafficking happens in the U.S. — that of the estimated 27 million slaves in the world, somewhere from 10,000 to 20,000 are Americans — their next response tends to be something like “Well, just deport all the traffickers.” Deport them … because they couldn’t possibly be Americans?
Insert some patient explanation about supply/demand, prostitution and trafficking, slavery’s definition, and probably some head shaking and deep sighs, here.
Trafficking happens in America. What’s more, it’s visible enough that kids are getting into the act — as the traffickers.
Last week, a New Jersey girl, 15, was arrested for selling her 7-year-old sister for sex. The girl was invited to a party down the street at Rowan Towers, an apartment complex known for dangerous and illegal activity. Her 7-year-old sister tagged along, some reports say because she was worried about her older sister’s safety. Once at the party, the teen sold herself for sex and before long, handed her sister some cash and told her to let the men “touch” her. The touching almost immediately turned into repeated, violent rapes while the sister reportedly watched. When it was over, the little girl got dressed and left the party while her sister stayed behind. Five men have been arrested in the case so far and the city is making this a top priority.
What’s so disturbing about this case is that the 15-year-old not only sold herself for sex but thought to sell her little sister as well. By the definition of sex trafficking, this girl is a by-the-book sex trafficker. Where did she learn this???
From everything I’ve read, the girls’ parents, while slightly naive, haven’t taught them about this particular business. What occurs to me, instead, is what happened in the late 80’s and early 90’s — young teens became drug dealers. Before then, dealing used to be done by shady dudes over 20 with too much chest hair and a seasoned criminal record. But then kids, needing or wanting money and respect, took the job and never looked back. Is the same thing happening to trafficking? Is trafficking so well hidden from the mainstream that teens, who by default seek out all things anti-mainstream, are more aware of it than most adults? And are they taking advantage of the money-making opportunity?
I hope not. But parents and teachers, if you’re paying attention, educate your kids. Learn about the problem in all its horror and teach your children. The more you understand, the easier it will be to keep your kids safe. And the more they understand, the better their decisions will be.
Photo by: Apenas imagens – Marília Almeida