Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Teen at Your Door

The demand for commercial sexual exploitation flourishes around the world, fueled by prostitution and pornography.Human trafficking generates $32 billion annually, according to Interpol in 2007. The estimates are twice that now. The United Nations claims that the trafficking of human beings has surpassed the drug trade to become the second largest source of money for organized crime after the illegal arms trade.The U.S. State Department estimates at least 600,000 to 800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders each year. Numbers within national borders are much higher. Among all trafficking victims, 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children.UNICEF reports that more than 1 million children around the world enter the sex trade every year. Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood to sexual exploitation over the past 30 years. 30 million children. That is a huge number and that estimate is two years old. Everyone thinks sex trafficking involves other countries, and mostly adults. Few realize the impact of the pornography industry and the explosion of sexually explicit businesses on children right here in the United States. At a presentation on human trafficking in San Antonio, I learned of a very visible indicator of a child involved in sex trafficking. They had come to my home and knocked on my door. To me they were a kid trying to sell me way overpriced stuff that I didn't really need or want. I noticed the young man was alone. It was almost dark. He was clean and well mannered. Very talkative and very engaging. He told me he was part of a group that traveled across the country raising money to help get kids off drugs and get them involved in a good life. Sounds good, right? I declined to buy anything, but was fascinated by the fact this boy was walking the block at such a late hour. A few weeks after the presentation, another teen appeared at my door with the same spiel. This time, I looked a little deeper into the eyes of the young girl who struggles with one size too big new pants, and the giant plastic container carrying her wares. I asked her if she could use some water and she came into my home. I listened to her and then asked a simple question. "Do you need help?" Her eyes told the story as did her tears. She had been brought to San Antonio from Florida. Her story was one of being groomed by an older guy, just like a pedophile does, and then convinced to go with him and be part of his life. She told how she was forced to have sex with not only the guy that professed his undying love for her, but with several of the people who were higher up in the group. If she did not sell a certain amount of stuff, she could only earn a bed to sleep in by having sex with the older people in the group. If she wnated clothes , sex. She had had 3 abortions and been treated for STD's 15 times. She was 15 years old. Her story gets repeated everyday all across the country. I still see these kids from time to time in my neighborhood, but they are here less frequently than before. If a child knocks on your door, for whatever the reason, please take the time to listen to them. Offer them help. If they are in a place to want to get away they will take you up on that offer. Calling CPS and the local police is a first step. The system is not perfect, but these children deserve a chance to be rescued. IN closing here is another fact for you to consider: despite an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S., fewer than 1,000 victims have been assisted through the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement since 2001, when services for trafficking victims were first made available. Please take the time to help the kid at your door. You may be their last best chance.

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