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Shared Hope International

Posted in America, Human Trafficking with tags , , , on June 20, 2008 by Mike

Human trafficking, and sex trafficking in particular, is a problem that is growing, not just overseas, but here in the US, also. This is due to a number of factors, but one of them is that the market is growing in our country–the demand is growing, so the supply must increase. The Church is taking a more active role in combating this terrible problem. Citizen Link has an interview with Linda Smith, former Washington congresswoman and founder of Shared Hope International.

1. Linda, you’re combating global sex trafficking. Many people might be surprised to hear there are similar things happening right here in the United States. Tell us about the domestic problem we have with sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry. It needs a product, it needs a buyer, and somebody’s all too happy to get a “product” and take it to market. And that’s what we call the trafficker or pimp.

2. There is a lot of that happening with minors. What are you uncovering with regard to boys and girls being taken into this?

We’re just about two-thirds through the investigation of major cities throughout the United States and the trafficking of children for commercial sex. What we’re finding is shown by the story of a 12-year-old. She was snatched going to school. The man had been walking alongside of her as she went to school. Come along six months, he had built a relationship. She was a gifted, smart, little girl, and that’s why she was walking the extra blocks to a special school. She got in the car with him and disappeared.

She was arrested twice, taken home, and they couldn’t understand why he’d get her again. She was arrested 19 more times before she was 16, in about that many states. Once a child, kidnapped, lured, deceived, six magic words will control her: “I know where I got you.” And those controlling words say, “I know how to get your mother. I can beat you again. There’s no safe place in the world for you.” We just prosecuted the pimp. I’ll go to the prison in a couple of weeks and interview him. He was part of a network selling girls (from) Louisiana to Toledo, clear over to Kansas, all the way to Seattle, and they had a pimp network of our little girls — just snatched and lured for “product” to men all over the United States (who) are pretty common, pretty ordinary, buying them because they’re labeled “prostitute.”

3. How does the American culture contribute to the problem of sex trafficking?

The American culture has started to tolerate commercial sex. “What happens here stays here” means thousands of little girls have been brought into Las Vegas, sold to tourists as well as local men. You don’t find any of the buyers being arrested because, in the man’s mind, she’s a prostitute. In society’s mind, she’s a prostitute. The man is perceived as just using a prostitute, no matter what the age. The age is going younger and younger, as men are visualizing something young. They’re seeing young porn. They’re seeing young bodies, no stretch marks. And when you come to actualization from visualization, that actualization has to replicate something similar. It’s going younger and younger as porn is going younger. We found 1 out of 5 images online are of children.

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