Surprised? You’re not alone. Most people would also be shocked to learn that Toledo, Ohio is the third largest city for child sex trafficking…We’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.
Although sex trafficking might seem like a distant problem that belongs overseas, the reality is that the U.S. now ranks among nations with an acknowledged human trafficking problem. It’s hard to rationalize this reality with the traditional picture that’s been painted for us. Although they might look a little different in America, the victims are the same – the most vulnerable members of society. In places like India, Thailand, or Somalia, it’s women, children, rural working class and the poor who are the most susceptible. Here in the U.S., the victims are harder for us to recognize. The victims blend in, or worse, are invisible because they live on the fringes of our society. They are immigrants, children, the abused, the drug-addicted, the poor – anyone who can be easily manipulated or intimidated, and do not have much support.
In America, pimps are boyfriends who trade their girlfriend’s body for a bag of drugs. A prostitute is the girl down the street whose father abused her from an early age, who started a relationship with an equally inappropriate man that traps her using physical and psychological intimidation. An illegal immigrant, blackmailed by an employer, is forced to work a corner or be turned into Homeland Security. These are the scenarios that make up our domestic sex trade.
But not only is the U.S. in the midst of the problem, the U.S. is also one of the underlying causes of the sex trade domestically and abroad. The fact is, Americans make up about 25 percent of all sexual tourism, a percentage that increases in Cambodia and Costa Rica. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we become part of the solution.
The solution starts by acknowledging that there is a problem, and it exists here. By educating yourself, encouraging discussion and teaching others about the issue, you can take a definitive step towards prevention.