News / USA

US Lawmakers Explore Efforts to Stop Child Sex Trafficking

US Lawmakers Explore Efforts to Stop Child Sex Traffickingi
X
March 07, 2014 6:06 PM
U.S. lawmakers are exploring ways to combat child sex trafficking, a crime that child safety advocates estimate is affecting several hundred thousand American children each year. U.S. lawmakers are exploring ways to combat child sex trafficking, a crime that child safety advocates estimate is affecting several hundred thousand American children each year. U.S. lawmakers are exploring ways to combat child sex trafficking, a crime that child safety advocates estimate is affecting several hundred thousand American children each year. Pamela Dockins reports.
Pamela Dockins
U.S. lawmakers are exploring ways to combat child sex trafficking, a crime that child safety advocates estimate is affecting several hundred thousand American children each year.

Law enforcement officials, child safety groups and a victim shared their views on the problem with members of a House Appropriations subcommittee at a recent hearing.

Lawmakers heard from Stephanie Vu, a human trafficking survivor who now works with the Shared Hope International and Youth for Tomorrow anti-trafficking groups.

Vu told lawmakers that at the age of 12, she was "chosen."

She said an older boy that she met at a party lured her away from her family and into a life that included stripping at a club.

Vu said that later, the boy threw her out of his house on a bitterly cold night after she refused his demand to "sell herself for sex." She said she spent several hours outdoors shivering and pacing the streets before finally deciding to climb into a "buyer's" car.

"That moment changed my life forever," said Vu.  "There were three men that night and at the end of it, I couldn't stop vomiting," she said.

The Polaris Project, a Washington-based group that fights global human trafficking, said U.S. sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues, including residential brothels, fake massage businesses and online escort services.

In a statement, the group said the average entry age into the commercial sex industry is between 12 and 14. It said children who become victims of sex trafficking sometimes encounter challenges that include isolation, criminalization and a lack of social services to help them recover from their trauma.

Cindy McCain co-chairs the Arizona Governor's Task Force on Human Trafficking. She cited figures from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as she told lawmakers that child sex trafficking is a "low risk," "high reward" enterprise.

"NCMEC also estimates that a pimp can make between $150,000 and $200,000 per child per year," said McCain.  "The average pimp has four to six little girls," she said.

The perception of the prostitute walking the streets persists. However, Fairfax County, Virginia police detective William Woolf told lawmakers more and more child sex traffickers are actually using online tools.

"They commonly exploit social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and things of that nature to be able to target their recruitment efforts, making them a lot more effective and efficient," he said.

Woolf also said his department has seen an increase in trafficking activity, largely because of the Internet.

"We see other Internet-based companies, like Backpage.com, that is openly and, in some senses, legally advertising commercial sex," said Woolf.  "It gives these traffickers opportunities to advertise to the general public, these sexual services and to advertise, essentially, our children online," he said.

However, Backpage said it cooperates with law enforcement efforts to find child sex traffickers.  In a VOA interview, Backpage Attorney Elizabeth McDougall said the website is not the root of the problem with child sex trafficking.

"If Backpage shut down, the content wouldn't go away. It would go to an underground or offshore website," she said.

Urban Institute Research Associate Colleen Owens said law enforcement officers have had some success in curbing online trafficking by moving to shut down websites and, in some cases, by posing as potential clients to catch traffickers.  

But she said in a VOA interview that a broader approach is needed to fully address the problem.

"To really tackle this issue, it involves a lot more than just using online sites to further investigate tactics," said Owens. "I think really trafficking requires a more comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach than maybe some other forms of crime or similar to some other forms of crime," she said.

Dr. Lois Lee is president of Children of the Night, a California-based organization that helps youth who have been victims of sex trafficking.  She said law enforcement efforts alone won't resolve these problems.

"We need people to really do something, to develop programs. Homes for kids. Schools for kids," said Lee.

Lee also said there should be more emphasis on helping young children in unstable homes, a problem that she said could make them more vulnerable to trafficking as they get older.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More