Seven adults in Florida were arrested and charged with human trafficking. Using the popular gaming app Discord, the seven lured in two teen aged boys through the promise of a “better life.” The two boys were then forced to live in small mattresses, surrounded by animal cages and feces.
Shockingly, this story is all too familiar in America. According to Polaris, a nonprofit working to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking, there has been a 13 percent jump in identified cases from 2016 to 2017.
In the first few days of February of 2017 alone, several arrests of child sex traffickers were reported. In California, over 470 people were arrested over a three day period as the state’s “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild rescued dozens of children, many of them taken from the foster care system in some way. 22 more were arrested in Detroit, Michigan, this time at North American International Auto Show, as police rescued two more young children, under the age of 16. In Dallas, Texas, during the same month, a 15 year old girl was rescued from a child sex trafficker. Another 16 year old girl, also from Texas, was also a victim of child sex trafficking. Police arrested an individual in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this time rescuing three minors from child sex trafficking.
Child sex trafficking is an ugly secret that many in America refuse to accept, or refuse to acknowledge. It is disturbing, it is horrific, and it is something that most pretend is not happening in our nation. “Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America, and at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day,”according to John Clark, the center’s CEO.
Yet, human trafficking is a large business. World wide, the International Labor Organization estimates that trafficking is now a $150 billion industry. Roughly $99 million of that is from commercial sex trade according to an ILO report, while the remaining $51 billion is from forced labor. Indeed, it has surpassed the illegal sale of arms and weapons, and is soon expected to eclipse the sale of illegal drugs. Indeed, the Urban Institute estimated that human trafficking is a $39.9 million business in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia. Several reports suggest that 300,000 children in America are victims of child sex trafficking each year.
Most youth who fall victim to prostitution today come from environments where they have already been sexually abuse. To be sure, the majority of children in America who are exploited sexually have already endured a life of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. Indeed, the contributor to a child entering into a life of child sex trafficking is a prior life of sexual abuse. Along with this, many of these children who have already been exposed to sexual abuse have problems with low self-esteem, and do not receive the educational opportunities they deserve. For some teens who have suffered abuse from the hands of family members, they may seek escape by running away from home. As a result, they are more likely to end up homeless, and may choose a life style of prostitution in order to “make ends meet,” financially, so to speak. These youth are more inclined to be placed into foster homes or group homes, and are also more likely to run away. Pimps also attract children by targeting them in group homes, promising them gifts, a sense of belonging, and a place where they will be loved, as well as encouraging them with presents and gifts, all while grooming them for a life of prostitution.
Many of these victims are children from the foster care system. In 2013, 60 percent of children who victims of child sex trafficking rescued from a FBI nationwide raid conducted over 70 cities were children from foster care or group homes. These children were found in hotel rooms, truck stops, and even homes.
The numbers are startling. The facts are hard to believe. Yet, child sex trafficking is big business, both in the United States, and on a global level. Children are in danger; children who may even live near you.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 16 years, and he and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home. He is an international consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several books, including the new book The Church and Foster Care, and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, and elsewhere, He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.