Sex Trafficking, a Global Phenomenon

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Sex trafficking is a global phenomenon. It includes any movement of people for recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, or receiving through coercion. This coercion can include threats, violence, deceit, or an abuse of power that is used to exploit people for prostitution or sexual slavery. Human trafficking can constitute a wide variety of forced labor, including, commercial sex work (prostitution, exotic dancing, pornography), personal service (domestic and sexual servitude), and even forced labor in sweatshops and factories. When Americans usually think of sex trafficking, they imagine poor women and girls from 3rd world countries, brought into the Unites States or other “destination” countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This, however, is wrong. Attention to the issue of human trafficking has greatly increased in literature and media in recent years. Cases of international sex trafficking have increased public awareness about human trafficking in the United States, yet many people remain unaware that more U.S citizens are victims of sex trafficking then foreign nationals. (Mcclain 2011). Tentative reports describing this dilemma have revealed that between 200,000- 400,000 US women are being exploited in this country every day. Such numbers are hard to validate given the secrecy and general nature of the crime as well as the great lengths in which traffickers go to keep their crimes hidden. In the following dissertation, I will be examining two articles, all of which focus on different aspects of sex trafficking in the United States.

The first article I read was titled “Domestic minor sex trafficking in the United States”, and was written by Professor Kortla of Baylor University. Kortla seeks to acquaint readers with what is currently known regarding domestic minor sex trafficking, who is at risk for becoming a victim, and the implications for the social work profession in addressing this epidemic. Kortla indicates that youths constitute the most vulnerable group in the United States for becoming victims of sex trafficking and that most women in prostitution actually enter as minors. Professor Kortla examines the legal connection between human trafficking and prostitution of minors, the prevalence in trafficking of minors (35% of human trafficking investigations involved minors), the age at which the women are exposed to prostitution (70% of women involved in prostitution were introduced to the commercial sex industry before 18), the supply and demand of domestic minor sex trafficking (annual profits estimated between 32 and 91 billion dollars), the services available for the victims of domestics sex trafficking, and the implications for social work (including advocacy and policy possibilities as well as agency based responses).

I was in shock after reading that the average age of children being lured into commercial sexual exploitation is between 11 and 14. This means that an average 21 year-old prostitute had been doing this for up to 10 years, possibly longer. One former victim states; “We're all under 18. We're all the same age. There would be a few girls I knew who were in their 20s or whatever, but they were doing it since they were our age anyways. I did wait till 12, and these girls had been doing it since they were eight or nine and now they are like 23.” (2010, 182) This account is sickening. Not only are girls robbed of their childhood and innocence, but they are coerced and fastened to a system of sexual exploitation which is almost impossible leave.

Another interesting yet mortifying aspect of Kortla’s article was about the demographic of sexually trafficked minors. Kortla exerts that girls at most risk are those who have run away or been "thrown away" from home, those who have a history of abuse, and those in the foster care or child protective services systems. Girls are also “groomed” by traffickers. Such grooming usually involves the pimp assuming the role of the...
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