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Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking is the recruitment and transportation of persons within or across boundaries by force, fraud, or deception for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In simpler words, sex trafficking is sexual slavery. Sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry. It includes prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, escort agencies, massage parlors, and online websites. Girls and women are even trafficked on Craigs List.

Facts About Sex Trafficking

*Melissa Farley, founding director of Prostitution Research and Education
** GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services), www.gems-girls.org and Department of Justice, www.usdoj.gov

Sex trafficking is a risk to girls and women across the globe. In the United States, each year between 100,000 and 300,000 children, most of them girls, are trafficked.

Runaways, the poor, and girls and women from marginalized groups are the most vulnerable, but anyone can become a victim of trafficking. It is estimated that a runaway girl will be approached by a pimp within the first 48 hours of being out on the streets. But just as common are pimps meeting and befriending girls at the food courts at neighborhood malls.

Studies estimate that as many as 98% of prostituted girls and women are controlled by pimps. Traffickers lure girls into prostitution by preying on their vulnerabilities, isolating them from everything that is familiar or comfortable, and promising them love and security. A trafficker will then manipulate the child’s world view until the child is completely dependant upon her exploiter. Control is maintained through deception and violence.

Yet prostitution and pornography continue to be standard fodder for jokes on mainstream television. Movies like the popular 1990’s movie, “Pretty Woman,” and popular music such as “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp,” have glamorized the sex industry and convinced many that women entering “the life” or “the game” do so by choice.

Exploited children are often labeled “child prostitutes” or juvenile delinquents and are sentenced to detention facilities while those who buy and sell them most often escape consequences.

Sex trafficking is driven by the demand of the buyers. The trafficker is just the middle man. As long as there is a buyer of commercial sex, there will be child victims of sexual exploitation.

The arrest and prosecution of buyers and sellers of trafficked girls and women must be made a priority in our legal system. We must stop labeling victims of sex trafficking as criminals and instead treat them as the survivors of abuse and exploitation that they are - by providing them with protection from their traffickers and services for their recovery.

If You are a Survivor of Sex Trafficking

You deserve to have support. You deserve to be safe.

How to Help a Survivor of Sex Trafficking

"If you are a Survivor" and "How to Help" are adapted from resources at the Sexual Assault Recourse Center and the Oregon State University Sexual Assault Support Services.