By Alison Weeks, VP of Education, The Shift Network
This last week I had the opportunity to see former Washington state congresswoman Linda Smith, speak at a community event. Linda is now an anti-sex trafficking advocate.
Her talk was gripping and grueling and I came home with a pit in my stomach.
Did you know that approximately 100,000 children (mostly girls) in the United States—with an average age of 13 years old—are exploited in prostitution every year?
First, let’s give it a name: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking or DMST. DMST is the commercial exploitation of children within the US borders. It is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of commercial sex when the person is under the age of 18 years old. DMST is fueling a profitable annual $10 billion dollar industry, where children are being pimped for an average of $400 per hour.
Though boys are also prostituted, the vast majority are young girls who have been “chosen” in an elaborate scheme to groom them as products for the sex market. The average “buyer” reports that they made their first sex purchase at the age of 21. These girls are average–your next door neighbor, your niece, your granddaughter.
These are OUR girls.
And did you know that when DMST victims are apprehended by law enforcement, they are, in many states, treated as criminals, unable to qualify for any victim services?
My own state of Oregon has one of the worst problems, and as laws are improving in nearby Washington state, the industry is being driven across the river. We must stop DMST. We need to put pressure on our states to change laws, train our communities to recognize the signs of DMST, and warn our children.
At the end of the evening, Linda said: “Now you can’t say you didn’t know.” So, now I’m saying the same to YOU: you can’t say you didn’t know.
Let’s shift this.
For more information, visit Shared Hope. [http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Infographic_DMST_with_sources.pdf]
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This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 6