WASHINGTON, DC, March 9, 2013 - Almost five decades ago, 45 years to be exact, I was sold for sex.
The pimp/trafficker made a lot of money selling my body, and countless men used me. Men raped me, a minor child, police arrested me, and made me a criminal.
Now, many, many years later, very little has changed in terms of sex trafficking. Today, pimps and traffickers continue to use children and young people as sex slaves, to the tune of $32 billion worldwide. That number alone should outrage every parent reading this article. While advocates have made some strides in rescuing young people from a life of sex for money, it has made very little difference in the overall sex trade. Powerful, money-hungry pimps and traffickers continue to coerce kids into doing what they are ordered to do, constantly fearing they will be hurt or killed if they don’t “deliver.”
Things have not changed enough, not yet.
Today, just as when it happened to me as a young run away, young people are being manipulated and exploited all around the world. Traffickers recruit many women into the United States to work in “spas,” which are really fronts for prostitution, while others are lured by the prospect of jobs that do not exist and then treated as modern day slaves, and still others sell their bodies to pay off insurmountable debts from complicated schemes created by pimps and traffickers.
Sex trafficking is a growing epidemic that needs to be stopped. What are we to do? Deal with this problem from the demand side and lock up all the men who pay for sex? Do we build restoration and rehabilitation centers where victims can go to escape the sordid street life? And how do we pay for these places? How do we effect change and public policy? We need to implement these solutions as well as many others.
Can we educate the next generation of young men and women about the horrors of sex trafficking so they demand that it stops? Perhaps there is hope. If and when government leaders, parents and strong-minded victims and survivors speak about this tragic situation maybe we can lessen and, better yet, eradicate this awful human activity.
First and foremost, we must educate the public about the horrors of human trafficking or modern day slavery.
Only then can the public’s beliefs, thoughts and policies begin to change. As a survivor of human trafficking, I believe I have a responsibility to speak, educate and empower others every chance I get.
We must all work to ensure each state, and the federal government, enacts proper legislation to help end this catastrophe. We must strengthen Safe Harbor laws that erases the criminal record of victims of trafficking and helps them return to society.
The public must understand that young girls in the sex industry are victims. The public, law enforcement and legislators must work together to change the way we view these women, and help them get out of their living nightmare.
In another 45 years, I hope my grandson will only know about the horror of human trafficking and sex slavery as a part of history, not a part of his and all humanities future.