Trafficking. For decades, this term has been linked to the illegal drug trade - the smuggling of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and other substances across borders. Or arms trafficking – the illicit trade in handguns and weapons of war. Then came the horrific news of organ trafficking, the commercial trade of nations of kidneys, livers, lungs or corneas for transplant.
Nearly anything can be bought or sold in a world where life is cheapened. Even children.
Though slavery has been abolished and nearly all cultures and countries recognize the fundamental premise that people cannot be possessed like cattle or cars, human slavery is alive and thriving. Heartless, violent adults prey on lost, lonely and abused children. Sometimes, they promise these vulnerable adolescent runaways love and safety while subjecting them to unconscionable violations of body, mind and spirit.
Gangs have discovered a profitable and reusable product that carries lower risks and penalties than the illegal drug trude: girls.
This is probably happening in your own community, whether you are aware of it or not, whether you live in a big city, a suburb, or a rural area.
It is not prostitution. It is not sex work. It is not consensual. It is sexual slavery. It is a business that survives because enough adult men sexualize and dehumanize children and are willing to pay to rape them.
This economic enterprise of systematic sexual abuse cannot be sugarcoated.
In the 1970s, battered women’s shelters sprung up all over the U.S., providing emergency housing and therapeutic services to victims of domestic violence. The shelter movement was like a secret Underground Railroad, a safe haven for women who mustered the courage to leave their abusers and escape the prisons of their homes. It took a long time (and a great deal of activism and journalism) for our society, laws and culture to support and understand women fleeing domestic terror and cruelty.
Today, we are at turning point with the sex trafficking of minors. Police and courts are beginning to recognize that it’s not prostitution if there’s a gun to your head, if you are below the age of consent, and if somebody else is getting rich off your body. President Obama has been speaking out about trafficking, and several bills introduced in the 113th Congress have passed the House. Excellent journalism has helped raise the consciousness of the country and our policymakers.
Because this issue intersects many other issues – like child abuse, poverty, substance abuse, foster care, juvenile justice, criminal justice, health, and safety – JCCF has pulled together a collection of resources to help journalists covering this story. We’ve created a new vertical on our website called “Sex Trafficking of Minors.” You can find it under the Child Welfare tab.
Explore the content, spread the links, suggest experts, and share the work you are doing in uncovering sex trafficking in your community, as well as your reporting on efforts to help support its victims and survivors.
The sex trafficking vertical was created by Mina Dixon, JCCF’s Program Coordinator. Mina started working at JCCF as an undergraduate journalism major at the University of Maryland. One of the most outstanding students to come our way, she stayed with JCCF after graduation and held this center together through leadership transitions and vacuums. She has revitalized and edited our weekly news summary, kept the JCCF website alive and fresh, provided source assistance to journalists in the field, and has been an essential part of nearly every project. Mina is leaving JCCF to attend Georgetown law school this fall to become a public interest lawyer. Her years at JCCF have sparked deep passion and empathy and have led her to find her calling as an advocate on behalf of children, particularly the disadvantaged. “I am 100 percent committed to working to ensure that all families have access to justice,” she wrote in a recent email. JCCF is deeply grateful to Mina Dixon for the incomparable work ethic, enthusiasm, clarity and creativity she brought to us. We wish her well and know she will make a difference in the lives of many children and families in her next chapter. Watch out world. Mina Dixon is on her way.