When I see stories like this NY Times piece on sexually exploited children and teens, I’m tempted to wish the world had ended as predicted last month. As North America — along with many countries around the world — prepares to celebrate Father’s Day this coming Sunday, here’s something sobering (nay, horrifying) to ponder:
An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American-born children are sold for sex each year. The escalating numbers have prompted national initiatives by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, and new or pending legislation in more than a dozen states, most recently Georgia, which enacted a toughened human trafficking law [in May, 2011].
The problem is rampant among certain demographic groups, with a high demand for Asian-American girls. The problem, which involves pornography as well, has been exponentially exacerbated by the ease of access to images and advertising on the Internet.
The abusers may be pimps, even brothers, who recruit or kidnap girls from the streets and market them online.
[The girls] fall prey to abusers who are highly motivated: the Polaris Project, a national advocacy organization, estimates that a stable of four girls earns over $600,000 a year in tax-free income for the pimp. Drug dealers here are increasingly switching to prostitution, inspired by the bottom line and fewer risks.
“The person dealing drugs has a finite amount of product to sell,” said Jason Skrdlant, an officer with the Oakland Police Department’s vice and child exploitation unit. “But a girl is reusable.”
“Stable”? “Reusable”? Are we talking children or plough horses? If only it was the latter (there would be a greater outcry, for one thing, courtesy of the animal rights movement). At least the medical community and law enforcement have come to recognize that these children are victims and have focussed resources on early intervention and counselling.
Once viewed as criminals and dispatched to juvenile centers, where treatment was rare, sexually exploited youths are increasingly seen as victims of child abuse…
Gee, ya think? What teenage girl wouldn’t rather be hanging out with friends at McDonald’s than being pimped by her brother, or raped/beaten by a middle aged john? (On second thought, “pimp” and “john” lack all sense of proportion: how about abusers, criminals, monsters?)
This perhaps is the part of the article that I found most disturbing:
About half the domestic minors sold for sex still live with a parent, said Richard J. Estes, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an authority on child commercial sex exploitation. But families who have experienced historic violence and genocide “often have a fear of law enforcement and are less likely to reach out for help…”
It’s an almost unfathomable tragedy, and the solution has to be multi-faceted, involving law-enforcement, the medical and healthcare communities, schools, government social agencies, and last but certainly not least, the family. If only human society could raise the current and coming generations of boys and men to begin acting like human beings, not rabid animals. (The article didn’t provide gender-breakdown stats, but I’d be willing to hazard that very few pimps and johns are women).
The horrid fact is that there is, at root, only one cause of child prostitution, and money, culture, history, and demography have nothing to do with it. It is caused by men indulging a grossly disordered appetite for pornography and sex with children. These evils would disappear overnight if the demand dried up. If men—all men—acted like Real Men. Real men protect and defend the innocent and the vulnerable. Real men don’t hurt children.
Some of these johns are married, some of them are dads (the thought is enough to make you retch). Men, married or single, young or old, dads or not: is it too much to ask that you behave like a decent human being and to treat all children with respect and dignity?