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Today we continue our monthly personal safety column penned by Michael Mercer of Michael Mercer Consulting. This retired police officer is now a crime prevention consultant with 30 years of experience preventing crimes against people, businesses, and properties. His offering includes prevention consulting, instructional classes, and educational programs. Mercer is a certified SABRE Personal Safety Academy Instructor.
For Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, Mercer discusses human trafficking.
Sex trafficking, which includes the commercial sexual exploitation of minors, is a serious and pervasive problem in the U.S. Of suspected human trafficking incidents in the U.S. investigated between January 2008 and June 2010, the vast majority involved either prostitution or the sexual exploitation of a child. In confirmed sex trafficking cases during this time period, 83% of the victims were identified as U.S. citizens.
The sex trafficking industry is growing rapidly and has already claimed many victims in the United States and beyond. The surge in the industry is attributed in part to the growth and increasing availability of the Internet. Websites facilitate this illicit business by providing a cheap, easy, and anonymous marketplace for traffickers and buyers to trade. This marketplace includes the sale of children for sex, making facilitators of the "most hideous, and possibly least acknowledged, human rights violation of our time."
Who are the victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking? Kids are especially susceptible to the deception and manipulation of traffickers. Traffickers recruit at locations that commonly attract youth, like schools, malls, parks, protective shelters, and group homes. Over 1.68 million American kids run away each year and become targets for traffickers. About 85% of DMST victims have experienced contact with the child welfare system, according to a New York Study. Boys and girls can be victims and the number one factor of vulnerability is the child’s age. Human trafficking in the U.S. is a $9.8 billion industry. At least 100,000 US children are exploited in prostitution every year in America.
We need to protect our children. This tragedy can, has, and will happen in our backyard. We are not immune to this.
We must emphasize prevention as the first priority. We must be proactive. Parents, schools, child advocacy organizations, and youth groups need to work together in developing and disseminating messages related to the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Public media, especially television networks and the movie and music industry share a huge responsibility for distributing material with messages of child sexual exploitation in our society. Together we need to come together as a society that treats our children with care. If there is only one thing I can do, it is to educate and try to prevent this from happening. Then, maybe, a child has a chance.
Women and girls need a way to defend themselves. They need to know there are ways to get help.
RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. Support this nonprofit and all of its brave efforts towards eliminating sexual abuse. You can protect yourself while supporting RAINN by purchasing a red SABRE Pepper Spray—contact me to purchase!