Good grief, January totally got away from me!
We had the Super Bowl here in Phoenix this year. The highlight of that for me was I got to see The Thunderbirds fly directly over my backyard on their way to fly over the University of Phoenix Stadium which is like 4 miles from my house! Now, I’m glad the whole thing is over and the news can return to the usual shootings, traffic accidents, and other stupid human behavior.
However, as volunteer Twitter account manager for a residential center for teen victims of sex trafficking, StreetLight USA, my month was filled with promoting their activities. Rallies, plays, prayer meetings, art display.
And all month, I wondered how many girls and boys were imported into the Valley of the Sun by their pimps, their sellers. Not only did we host the Super Bowl, but also the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a stop on the PGA tour AND the Pro Bowl AND the annual Jackson Barrett Auto Auction which auctions off expensive cars. So the valley was rife with affluent men spending money on leisure activities.
For some of them, their activity of choice is raping young girls.
One lie these men tell themselves is that the girls they rape want to be there, that it’s their choice.
Um, NO! You, sir, are a child molester.
The typical female victim of sex trafficking is 13 years old. That means some are older. That means some are younger.
She might be a runaway, and most likely was sexually abused by someone in her past. Often, her home life was unstable. Probably, even if she didn’t run away from home, she was vulnerable (what teenage girl isn’t?) and fell prey to some male older than her who “groomed” her by being kind to her, giving her things, affection, a place to stay, nice clothes, meals…drugs.
Some of these males then might sell her to someone else to sell to johns, or they might pimp her themselves. They tell the girls they have to pay them back for what the girls believed was offered out of love for them. These girls endure multiple beatings, verbal and emotional abuse, even drug addiction. Many are branded with tattoos that mark them as property. They become psychologically and physically dependent on the brutes who hold them hostage. Many trafficked kids are able to walk away, but they don’t see that. They believe they are helpless apart from the people that sell them.
Some kids, even very very young kids, are pimped by their parents. Some by friends of the family. For me, as a daughter from a loving home, and as a mother, I can’t imagine even thinking that thought–trade my child’s innocence, their mental and physical health for money.
Kids in the life are sold an average of 10 to 20 times a day. An estimate of 100,000 kids IN THE USA ALONE are believed to be living this life. Another 100,000-200,000 kids are at risk. Mostly girls, but boys, too. When a kid enters this life, their future extends, on average, only a mere 7 years unless they are rescued or somehow manage to leave. Drugs, beatings, and disease are the most common causes of death.
One result of hosting the Super Bowl for the good was that the City of Phoenix enacted tougher penalties for buyers of children for sex.. Mandatory arrest and jail time, cars impounded, fines, mandatory education. Before, jail time and education was optional at the discretion of authorities.
Personally, I think these men should be treated as sex offenders with all the social stigma that goes with that label.
Maybe it’s a good thing the month flew and I didn’t get any other posts up. The spotlight may be off Phoenix, but kids are still being sold for sex.
And where you live.
January and Human Trafficking Awareness Month may be over for 2015, but the problem didn’t go away at midnight on February 1.
What can you do? Probably not go out and rescue a girl, bring her home and restore her. You can educate yourself on the issue and figure out where you fit in. Maybe it will be as complicated as a career, or as simple as donating money or spreading awareness by following organizations and sharing on social media. The more we do, the louder we say this has got to stop.
Follow these two organizations on social media:
A couple articles about trafficking.
The Scarlet Cord
You can help the girls at StreetLightUSA by going to their wish list on Amazon and purchasing items that will be shipped directly to the facility. Check the left side for several lists to choose from.