Emotional Health

Sex Trafficking and the Exploitation of Our Children

The best way to help, of course, is to prevent this kind of crime before it happens. There are many ways to contribute, and you may have more resources than you think. Katie Ford, whose parents created the iconic Ford Modeling agency, grew up far from the problems faced by most children who are abducted and trafficked. But after attending a conference on global slavery, she became a passionate advocate for modern “abolition.” Ford created her own foundation realizing she had a useful skill set to bring to the problem:

“I could think of so many things to do to stop trafficking because of the parallels to how we brought models into the U.S. . . had this weird set of knowledge about immigration law, a very distinct skill set that not many people have. I thought, I’ve go to do this. It became all-consuming.”

Girls and women are not the only victims. There is an active slave trade selling young boys too. Some leaders involved in the fight against trafficking in the US believe that boys are rarely the victims of sexual exploitation, but that is not true. “It makes me very angry,” Jerome Elam, a male survivor who is CEO of the Trafficking in America Task Force, said, “The UN and others are not acknowledging the problem. They’re just not getting it in terms of the sex trafficking of males.”

Awareness has been raised in the past year of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, but in many areas it is still an acceptable idea that men are “entitled” to sex, however they might get it, and in some countries women are treated so much like property that the transition from being a girl to being slave is a quick one. UNICEF has a project to fight not only the crime of trafficking, but also the cultural attitudes that make it not only easy but also risk-free. The Polaris Project operates a national hotline and is trying to raise awareness.

Pope John Paul II said “A society will be judged on how it treats its weakest members.” The sexual exploitation of children, something that is far from the daily lives of most Americans, and for many is unimaginable, can only be fought if it is recognized. We can all help by raising awareness in our communities, doing what we can to protect children that are poor, whose parents lack resources to take care of them properly, who may have lost their way. All children deserve to be nurtured and protected, and it is an indictment of our society that they all do not have that guarantee.


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