Human Trafficking is Right in Front of Our Eyes, But We Refuse to See It

Last weekend, the FBI partnered with local, state, and federal law enforcement to conduct the seventh "Operation Cross Country," a sweep of 76 cities across America to recover victims of underage trafficking. This year's sweep, the largest yet, resulted in the rescue of 105 children, primarily females between the ages of 13 and 17. Since its inception in 2003, the Innocence Lost Initiative has recovered more than 2,700 children. 

Though even the FBI acknowledges that "child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America,” human trafficking still fails to concern the American population. Generally, Americans do not view human trafficking as a domestic issue, but rather something that happens far away in foreign lands. Both the research on child prostitution in the U.S. and the publicity surrounding the issue are lacking. Perhaps we are reluctant to believe that we could be surrounded by such a tragic problem, but that is exactly why the reality of it demands real confrontation.

As of 2010, approximately 293,000 American minors, on average between ages 12 and 14, were "at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation." Children may be abducted and too afraid to run away, tricked into prostitution in pursuit of a legitimate job like "modeling," or turn to trafficking in the belief that they have no other option to support themselves. 

Traffickers and pimps tend to target children with a "void" in their lives, who are vulnerable to exploitation due to low self-esteem, a history of abuse, marginalization, oppression, or poverty. Such factors leave children susceptible to manipulation that can create a sense of obligation and dependence on a pimp, which is often reinforced through emotional and physical abuse and drug addiction.

In 2010, human trafficking was the fastest-growing organized crime business in the world. It is well-organized, manipulative, and violent. The resources available to victims are insufficient to enable them to escape their circumstances. Though operations like the Innocence Lost Initiative are taking important steps, they are insufficient to confront the epidemic proportions of this problem.

This problem is everywhere around us, yet it goes unnoticed.

Change must come in our awareness, our willingness to confront and acknowledge this problem socially, and to put a stop to the demand for underage sex slaves. The problem needs government attention, but it also needs our attention, and our commitment to creating a society that does not tolerate the use of children as slaves. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Kelley Kidd

Kelley Kidd is a recent graduate from Georgetown University, where she studied Culture and Politics and discovered a passion for theatre and costume design. Still living in DC, she is now a Case Manager at DC's Miriam's Kitchen, a homelessness advocacy organization.

MORE FROM

Serena Williams responds to John McEnroe's comments saying she would rank "like 700" against men

Williams said his statements were "not factually based."

People are way less likely to be helpful when it's hot out, according to study

Sorry, it's too hot out to help you move.

Democrats, the American Medical Association and US bishops blast the Senate health care bill

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 15 million more Americans will be without health insurance next year if the bill passes.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Serena Williams responds to John McEnroe's comments saying she would rank "like 700" against men

Williams said his statements were "not factually based."

People are way less likely to be helpful when it's hot out, according to study

Sorry, it's too hot out to help you move.

Democrats, the American Medical Association and US bishops blast the Senate health care bill

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 15 million more Americans will be without health insurance next year if the bill passes.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.