enforcement officials and rights advocates are looking at new ways to combat
child prostitution in the United States.
The effort is based on a simple premise: instead of treating the young
girls involved in the illegal sex business as criminals, treat them as
always felt like a criminal," said Tanya, "I never felt like a victim
at all. Victims don't do time in jail,
they work on the healing process."
former child prostitute, is among the more than 100,000 children and young
women the FBI says are trafficked in the US yearly.
year, U.S. police apprehended about 50 pimps and hundreds of women in a
29-state operation targeting sex trafficking.
Another 48 child prostitutes were also arrested and hauled off in police
custody. There is often no other option
for helping these young women, according to Special Agent Patrick Fransen with
the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
nowhere to place them," said Fransen. "We have to criminalize them before
we can help them."
highlighted the challenge that law enforcement officials face when trying to
rescue child prostitutes. While they
want to remove these young people from a dangerous situation, identifying them
as criminals can create a stigma.
When a child has run away from home multiple
times, there is a good chance they will end up on the street, forced into
prostitution. And, many of them are the victims of past sexual abuse.
Montgomery County police department, just outside of Washington, D.C. has made
combating sex trafficking a major priority.
Robert Bolesta oversees the unit responsible for the effort. Whenever possible, his department pursues
alternatives to arresting children who are victims of domestic sex trafficking.
are afforded certain rights and protections if they are a trafficking
victim," said Lieutenant Robert Bolesta. "We will rescue them from
the situation. We will not charge those
individuals with prostitution."
identifying when larger criminal elements are at work, police can focus more on
helping to rescue endangered girls.
He says his
investigators have received special training, based on investigations from
across the country, to recognize when someone is being forced into prostitution
against their will.
individual doesn't have possession of their legal documents," he said.
"If a specific individual is always translating for them. If they don't have the will to come and go as
The fate of
children being put up for sale on America's streets was the topic of a briefing
on Capitol Hill, where rights advocates asked Congress for more resources to
fight sex trafficking and help the young victims.
heads the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
kids are victims," said Ernie Allen. "This is 21st century
slavery. They lack the ability to walk
away. The pimps who use and discard them
are the criminals, as are those who patronize them. They need to be rescued, not arrested."
Many law enforcement
officials and advocates for sex trafficking victims agree that the right
strategy to stop the crime is to stop the demand; that means arresting the
buyers who pay for sex.