Sex traf­fick­ing called a na­tional epi­demic ‘Never-end­ing stream’ of abused girls in Amer­ica to­day

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CHUCK NEUBAUER

When she first showed up at Chil­dren of the Night, a pri­vately funded res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity, “Jane” was an­gry. Ar­rested more than 20 times as a pros­ti­tute, she had been hard­ened by the street. She threw things at her coun­selors. Ev­ery­one was ter­ri­fied by hav­ing to deal with her.

“She was just afraid. She was used to be­ing treated so rough,” said Lois Lee, the Los An­ge­les group’s founder and pres­i­dent. “She didn’t know what to do with some­one nice.”

Jane, not her real name, was just 14 when her life was taken over in Seat­tle by a 36-year-old man who said he loved her and promised to give her a bet­ter life. It was an easy sell: She was the prod­uct of a trou­bled home, where she was sex­u­ally mo­lested by her fa­ther’s room­mate. The abuse be­gan when she was 4 years old. She also was mo­lested at the day care cen­ter where she was taken ev­ery day.

“My mom was a junkie,” Jane, now 17, said in an in­ter­view. “I lived with my dad. He was up and down with his moods. He had a mar­i­juana ad­dic­tion. [. . . ] I can’t re­mem­ber much of my child­hood. I block it out.”

Jane said the mo­lesta­tion made her shy, and when she fi­nally told some­one about it, her aunt, her fa­ther turned away from her. “I needed his sup­port, but he started to shut down,” she said. “I fig­ured he didn’t care any­more [about me] and so I didn’t care any­more. I just started staying away from my house.”

She ended up with a fam­ily friend, a woman who forced her to work as a pros­ti­tute and sell drugs. That’s when she met James Jack­son, the man she called Jay, who per­suaded her to go with him to Port­land, Ore. He promised to show her a bet­ter life, but mo­ments af­ter they ar­rived, Jack­son told her she had to “sell her ass,” court records show. When she ob­jected, he choked and punched her un­til she agreed to be a pros­ti­tute.

Jane is not the only girl to fall vic­tim to some­one she has trusted, but no one re­ally knows how many oth­ers there are.

Sex traf­fick­ing is so wide­spread, said Nathan Wil­son, founder of the Pro­ject Merid­ian Foun­da­tion in Ar­ling­ton, Va., which helps po­lice iden­tify traf­fick­ers and their vic­tims, that “no coun­try, no race, no re­li­gion, no class and no child is im­mune.” He said 1.6 mil­lion chil­dren younger than 18, na­tive and for­eign-born, have been caught up in this coun­try’s sex trade.

But, he said, the num­ber of vic­tims is hard to quan­tify be­cause of the lengths to which traf­fick­ers go to keep their crimes hid­den.

An­a­lysts say the num­ber of chil­dren sex­u­ally ex­ploited in the U.S. or at risk of be­ing ex­ploited is be­tween 100,000 and 300,000.

“We know it is a re­ally large num­ber,” said Anne Mil­gram, a for­mer high-rank­ing fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor who tried and over­saw sex traf­fick­ing cases. “We know there are a lot of chil­dren be­ing vic­tim­ized. We just can’t tell you what num­ber.”

‘Never-end­ing stream’

Rachel Lloyd said she has seen a “never-end­ing stream” of abused girls since she founded Girls Ed­u­ca­tional and Men­tor­ing Ser­vices’ (GEMS) in New York City in 1997, which helps girls and women ages 12 to 24 vic­tim­ized by sex traf­fick­ers.

“We don’t know the num­ber, but we know it is hap­pen­ing. I am work­ing with 300 girls now,” she said, adding that most came from trou­bled homes where there was ei­ther sex­ual or phys­i­cal abuse. “For ev­ery sin­gle woman I have met that was ex­ploited, you could tell why they ran away and why they were easy prey for a pimp. The pimp be­comes their strong­est con­nec­tion in life.”

Ms. Lloyd speaks from ex­pe­ri­ence: Sex­u­ally abused as a child in Eng­land, she ended up in Ger­many and at 17 was work­ing in a strip club, where she met an Amer­i­can she thought loved her but who “pimped me out.” She said he beat her to keep her work­ing and when she fi­nally es­caped, she was “bro­ken emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally” be­fore putting her life back to­gether.

The Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based Po­laris Pro­ject, which ad­vo­cates stronger traf­fick­ing laws and pro­vides help to vic­tims, has said traf­fick­ing for sex and forced la­bor gen­er­ates bil­lions of dol-


GET­TING HELP: “Jane” is staying at Chil­dren of the Night in Van Nuys, Calif., af­ter en­dur­ing years of abuse and forced pros­ti­tu­tion. “It still af­fects me . . . in a ver y, ver y scar y way,” she says.

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