At least 100,000 children are used as prostitutes each year as part of the $9.8 billion U.S. sex trafficking industry, according to a new report from anti-trafficking group Shared Hope International.
Child sex trafficking has long been an acknowledged problem. According to the Department of Justice, forty percent of all human trafficking cases opened for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010 were for the sexual trafficking of a child. Victims on average are between the ages of 12 and 14, although some can be as young as nine, as estimated by ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), an anti-trafficking organization. But as the State Department recently condemned Russia and China for exceedingly high rates of human trafficking and harboring sex slaves, the report is a reminder that sex slavery and human trafficking is a domestic problem as well.
The report, presented during a hearing before the the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking and the Congressional Caucus for Victims’ Rights on Monday, flagged the varying and severe rehabilitation needs of these sex trafficking victims, who can be denied care for anything ranging from special health needs, drug addiction, to severe mental health diagnosis and/or suicidal symptoms. Sex trafficking victims can be particularly vulnerable, since traffickers tend to target those who already have a history of abuse.
Of particular concern are male and transgender victims. None of the 43 organizations surveyed by SHI provide services specifically for male victims:
None of the organizations that responded to the National Colloquium Provider Survey provide specialized services exclusively for male victims of DMST; 36% provide services for females only. Fifty-eight percent of responding organizations could provide services to males, females and transgender youth. Six percent stated they could provide services to male and female youth but did not indicate they serve transgender youth. The survey results did not reveal exactly how many programs offer residential services for males and transgender youth, but the clear majority of programs provide treatment specifically for female victims.
Panelists also discussed the importance of empowering survivors and instilling in them a sense of autonomy and personal freedom. Victims of sex slavery are subject to an immense amount of control and oppression, and sex traffickers “use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry.”