Statistics though do not have faces. While it may be easy for some to read a statistical analysis of a criminal activity without feeling any compassion, sympathy or anger the stories of Sex Trafficking victims do not allow the same respite.
One such story is of Andrea, a girl who was abandoned by her family at age 4(9). Andrea recounts being shuttled back and forth between the US on numerous occasions. At the age of 7 Andrea was taken to a hotel to meet a john who read the Bible to her before he had sex with her and then read the Bible again after he was done. “Sex as a child always hurt” but Andrea’s captors would “train” her usually by rape or other sadistic methods. Though she was young Andrea recalled many times she would be taken to help “shop” for other young children, explaining how in Juarez Mexico her captors purchased a young 4 year old boy from a family for $500. When she was shuttled back into the US many of the children would be dropped off at service stations to men waiting in the restrooms…some of the children would return to the transport van while many would leave the van never to be seen again. The children who did return would be taken to stash houses, regular looking houses in regular middle class neighborhoods. Usually there were three age groups that her captors would hold down in the basement of the homes, toddler to 4, 5 to 12, and then the teens and “damaged group.” In the “damaged group” the men could beat you and do pretty much whatever they desired to do. The children held in the basement were malnourished, beaten both emotionally and physically but they would much rather stay in the basement…when they were summoned out it meant they would be used for another waiting customer. The average time span a child will be used in the Sex Trade industry is usually 2-4 years before they are either abandoned or killed, Andrea endured this type of life for 12 years, never experiencing a childhood.
The abuse that Andrea received runs much deeper than mere physical trauma. Her life was threatened regularly, the lives of family members and friends would be constantly threatened to keep her behavior regulated. Even with the opportunity of freedom the psychological terror that her captors literally beat into her kept her from ever trying to gain freedom. Many of the children would never even consider running to the police for fear of further brutalization as many law enforcement agencies would share in the corruption, turning their heads for large weekly payoffs from the Human/Sex Traffickers. Today, Andrea still lives in fear from her past captors as they are still at large and probably still terrorizing more young children.
Unfortunately this story is not the exception…its becoming the rule. Millions of children are treated just like Andrea was…every day, millions; hearing about one child treated like this is absurd but the harsh reality is that globally women and children are being abducted, sold, pimped and forced into a living hell. But the question must be asked, who would ever do such a thing? Who could ever perpetrate such an act and how does one become a customer to purchase something that God never intended to be sold? The answers may be as unnerving as the crimes they commit.
Of course, trying to find reliable estimates or figures on who is a Human/Sex Trafficker or customer of traffickers remains to be a rather murky engagement. What we do know is that the crime does not harbor favorites, people of every age, race and gender are involved in the Human/Sex Trafficking crime organizations. Referencing back to the DOJ’s “Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010,” we see that the highest percent of traffickers were either African-American or Hispanic with Asian, White and “Other” finishing out the list.10 The figure which stands out the most is the gender of the traffickers. Men comprised of 80 percent of the traffickers while women made up nearly 20 percent of the arrested traffickers! When most people think of a child being brutalized, beaten, raped and starved it is almost against our nature to believe a woman could be involved in such a brutal crime, yet the statistics show otherwise. In fact, women often serve a key role in Sex Trafficking organizations as they are the ones who gain the “trust” of the child or woman when they are first brought in. But it is the women who also cause the most psychological damage as they are in charge of “grooming” the child/woman on how to act and what they are to do.
Statistical analysis on the customers of Sex Trafficking is even more scarce. Most of the information referenced involves trafficking outside of the United States as most customers of third-world countries “sex tourism” are customers from northern Europe and the United States.11 While many would believe that only pedophiles would be the customers of such sexual exploitation this assumption would be false. The vast majority of men traveling abroad have no criminal record and purposefully schedule trips specifically to be a “sex tourist.” Hot spots for such activity include Thailand, Cambodia, and most recently Brazil has begun to emerge as the leader in “sex tourism” travel. Frequently, travelers will disguise their trips as “Amazon fishing tours” while in fact they are targeting children that are made available to sexual exploitation.
The excuses that men give for their preying upon children and impoverished women are pathetic. It reminds me of those Dateline specials with Chris Hansen, “To Catch a Predator.” Men on this show are caught red handed, showing up to the house of a minor with the sole intent of having sex with them and even though there is a mountain of evidence against them the men will do whatever they can to point the finger elsewhere. Experts have given four possible ideas as to the motivation of these predators. 1) Travelers believe they are relieving the children of economic hardship when paying them for sex, 2) They believe that some countries are less “sexually inhibited,” 3) The thought of anonymity and freedom of their home’s moral standards, 4) Often travelers have racist beliefs, that certain cultures or people are “less than human” and can be treated accordingly.12 How a person can justify traveling to another country solely for the purpose of “sexual tourism” is beyond understanding and completely sickening. Can people be so utterly wicked, sinful and evil that they can exploit children sexually and then come up with excuses as to why its ok?
Unfortunately, one of the reasons that people continue to traffic people for the purpose of sex is that the governments of many countries have turned a blind eye or even a paid eye to the problem. As stated before, Human/Sex Trafficking is a $32 Billion a year industry and traffickers pay whatever is necessary to make sure their flow of money goes undisturbed. Couple this with the fact that many law enforcement personnel do not think there is a major problem of Human/Sex Traffickers and you get a toxic mix of corruption and ignorance that leaves many vulnerable women and children in a perpetual state of brutal abuse. As Gary Haugen president of IJM puts it, “You don’t run to the police; you run from the police.”13
With so much money, corruption and abuse, it seems as though it would be impossible to ever stop the global engine of Human/Sex Trafficking…
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9 Andrea’s story is recounted in “The Girls Next Door,” by Peter Landesman (See Part 1)
10 Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010
11 Arielle Eirienne 2009. “Child Sex Tourism: ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ in a Globalized World.” Student Pulse Academic Journal 1.11. Retrieved from: <http://www.studentpulse.com/a?id=34>
12 These 4 points are from page 3 of Eirienne’s article.