Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Human Trafficking: Is An Epidemic in the United States

Young girls abducted or lured away from home and into sex slaves is no longer just an overseas problem but a concern in cities across America. It is called human trafficking and it is an epidemic.

It become so alarming that local leaders in San Antonio, Texas are looking at ways to tackle the problem. It did not take long for human rights investigators, posing as buyers, to show just how easy it is to buy sex with a child. "Now if you want something really young, that will cost you $200," said a man, who was captured on hidden camera by investigators with Shared Hope International, a nonprofit group working to rescue and rehabilitate young girls and boys who of are victims of human trafficking. The video tape showed the investigator wheeling and dealing for a young girl and finding out if he could purchase a girl for as young as 14 years old. "We have information on girls as young as 10 or 11," said Chris Burchell, who has helped to create a new statewide nonprofit organization called the Texas Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Child Sexual Exploitation Coalition. Shared Hope International visited three Texas cities, including San Antonio, and discovered many prostitutes were forced into sexual acts at an early age and were being treated as criminals rather than victims of human trafficking. According to Burchell, many of the girls were runaways or tricked into performing sex. One recent case involved a local 13-year-old girl. "The teenage girl went into a known crack dealer's home with a friend when one of the crack dealers locked her in the bathroom and told her friends she had left. Once the friend left, the 13-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and sold to everybody else buying crack that weekend," Burchell said. Innocent girls and boys are tricked or forced into becoming sex slaves and it's happening almost everyday and Burchell said parents need to know this so they can teach their children what to watch out for. Burchell said new human trafficking laws are helping authorities crack down on domestic human trafficking but more work is needed. "These are our own locally raised born here kids that are being subjected to forced prostitution," said Burchell. Helping a great deal is the Bexar County Sheriff's Human Trafficking unit. They typically go out during the day or night to visit area prostitutes, not to make an arrest, but to find out ways to help minors who are working the streets into a better life. The HT unit works closely with other agencies including Catholic Charities offering services to young victims who were forced into sex slavery and don't know how to get out of it.

The County's Human Trafficking Unit is the only one of its kind in the San Antonio area and according to Burchell, with the help of other agencies, they have been able to be one of the first in Texas to indict someone under the new Human Trafficking law. Burchell is working to create a network of agencies across the state to provide services such as medical treatment and rehabilitation so that children who's lives were interrupted can get back on track. "Hopefully those victims can be kids again," said Burchell. "Just imagine a child, 12, 13 years old, being forced to provide sex services 30 to 50 times a day," said Burchell. With the help of Shared Hope International, Burchell hopes the state is well on its way to tackling the problem of child prostitution and hopes parents as well as children are aware that human trafficking is happening in our backyard and we must all fight to protect our most innocent and vulnerable.

Laws against trafficking in the United States exist at the federal and state levels. Over half of the states now criminalize human trafficking though the penalties are not as tough as the federal laws. Related federal and state efforts focus on regulating the tourism industry to prevent the facilitation of sex tourism and regulate international marriage brokers to ensure criminal background checks and information on how to get help are given to the potential bride.

Human & Sex Trafficking Affect Over 4 Million Children & Young Women Each Year.
Project Meridian's mission is to rescue and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking; sex & organ trafficking; and to help end trafficking through a campaign of public awareness and the prosecution of those who prey on the vulnerable. "Evil Flourishes When Good Men Do Nothing"

To learn more visit Project Meridian's Web site: http://www.projectmeridianfoundation.org/

Human Trafficking / United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Click here Human Trafficking and Operation Predator is a comprehensive initiative designed to protect young people from child pornographers, alien smugglers, human traffickers, and other predatory criminals.

For more information regarding Human Trafficking: Texas Anti-Trafficking In Persons And Child Sexual Exploitation Coalition CHRIS.BURCHELL@TEXAS-ATIP.ORG

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1-888-373-7888

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