The news yesterday about FBI raids that arrested hundreds across the country in child sex trafficking stings was very disturbing. Three children were rescued in Chicago alone. Sadly, the news that children are victimized in the sex trade in the United States is not a revelation, it’s reality.
If you get a chance today, buy an issue of StreetWise. It includes the story of Jessica (not her real name), who was kidnapped in Chicago and prostituted in the suburbs for three years. She was held against her will, clearly a victim of trafficking right here in our own back yard.
And until recently in Illinois, children who were arrested for prostitution could be charged criminally. Our End Demand, Illinois campaign helped to stop this practice in Illinois by advocating for the passage of the Safe Children Act, which took effect in August of this year.
The sex trade is fueled by the most vulnerable in our society, and children are often victims. Here are some startling facts from research CAASE has compiled into fact sheets:
- A University of Pennsylvania study from 2001 estimates that close to 300,000 children nationwide are at risk of falling victim to some sort of sexual exploitation. Outreach workers concur, saying that of the 1 million to 1.5 million runaway children in the country, about a third have some brush with prostitution.
- The overwhelming majority of runaway, homeless, abused, and at-risk children are approached by pimps and drug dealers within 48 hours of landing on the streets.
- Sixty percent of children exploited in prostitution are first recruited by peers.
- The U.S. Department of Justice states that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old.
We should all be disgusted, but what can we do next? You can raise awareness and take action. Until the demand for prostitution ends, there will always be people willing to supply children for the sex trade. Visit www.enddemandillinois.org and get involved with the local campaign . Read our guide to concrete ways you can help fight the sex trade here.
Photo by Manuel Faisco.