GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

January 11, 2013

My View: Stepping up fight vs. human trafficking

The crime of human trafficking is one of the most egregious human rights violations we see today. And it is happening right in our own communities.

Its victims are individuals lured into this country with false promises of legitimate work, only to be forced into the sex industry on arrival. They are domestic runaways being taken in by traffickers and forced to trade sex for a place to sleep. They are also girls being baited into “the life” by a presumed boyfriend who later reveals himself as a pimp. Much like a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking victims are trapped by fear, isolation and brutality at the hands of their traffickers.

An estimated 1 million children worldwide are sexually exploited annually, with the average age of girls forced into the sex trade between the ages of 12 and 14. Within the United States alone, it is estimated that nearly 300,000 children are trafficked for sex every year. The cases involve tremendous violence, such as a recent case where the victim was beaten, forced naked into a cold shower, covered with ice and then made to stand in front of an air conditioner for 30 minutes.

What can be done to prevent other children and teens from being victimized?

A first step is addressing the truth about trafficking. Put simply, human trafficking is the selling of human beings for profit through forced labor, sexual exploitation or involuntary domestic servitude. Experts estimate 27 million people are trafficked worldwide annually, reaping $32 billion in illegal profits which makes it the second-largest and fastest-growing black market in the world.

Human trafficking is a crime that can be difficult to identify and track. The Internet has only exacerbated this problem by taking the sex trade off our streets and into hotel rooms - out of sight of law enforcement and social services. Our computers provide access to a variety of sites that promote prostitution, which make millions of dollars by offering anonymity to traffickers, further facilitating the victimization of children.

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