This article was originally published by John Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute.
“Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”—John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
There can only be one winner emerging from this year’s Super Bowl LIV showdown between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs, but the biggest losers will be the hundreds of young girls and boys—some as young as 9 years old—who will be bought and sold for sex during the course of the big game.
It’s common to refer to this evil practice, which has become the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns as child sex trafficking, but what we’re really talking about is rape.
Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.
It’s not just young girls who are vulnerable to these predators, either.
According to a USA Today investigative report, “boys make up about 36% of children caught up in the U.S. sex industry (about 60% are female and less than 5% are transgender males and females).”
Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.
In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.
On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period.
It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still, others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.
Child rape has become Big Business in America.
This is an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.
This is not a problem found only in big cities.
It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities, and towns across the nation.
As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”
Don’t fool yourselves into believing that this is merely a concern for lower-income communities or immigrants.
It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S. These girls aren’t volunteering to be sex slaves. They’re being lured—forced—trafficked into it. In most cases, they have no choice. Every transaction is rape.
In order to avoid detection (in some cases aided and abetted by the police) and cater to male buyers’ demand for sex with different women, pimps and the gangs and crime syndicates they work for have turned sex trafficking into a highly mobile enterprise, with trafficked girls, boys and women constantly being moved from city to city, state to state, and country to country.
For instance, the Baltimore-Washington area, referred to as The Circuit, with its I-95 corridor dotted with rest stops, bus stations, and truck stops, is a hub for the sex trade.
No doubt about it: this is a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.
Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger.
The average age of those being trafficked is 13. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out, “Let’s think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.”
“For every 10 women rescued, there are 50 to 100 more women who are brought in by the traffickers. Unfortunately, they’re not 18- or 20-year-olds anymore,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked. They’re little girls.”
This is America’s dirty little secret.
But what or who is driving this evil appetite for young flesh? Who buys a child for sex?
Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life. “They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.
Catholic and Protestant churches have been particularly singled out in recent years for harboring these sexual predators. Twenty years after the clergy sex abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church, hundreds of sexual predators—priests, deacons, monks and laypeople—continue to be given work assignments in proximity to children. In many cases, the abuse continues unabated.
Although much less publicized, the sex crimes within the Protestant Church have been no less egregious. For instance, a recent expose into the Southern Baptist Church leaders by the Houston Chronicle documents over 700 child sex victims “who were molested, sent explicit photos or texts, exposed to pornography, photographed nude, or repeatedly raped by youth pastors. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms.”
And then you have national sporting events such as the Super Bowl, where sex traffickers have been caught selling minors, some as young as 9 years old. Yet even if the Super Bowl is not exactly a “windfall” for sex traffickers as some claim, it remains a lucrative source of income for the child sex trafficking industry and a draw for those who are willing to pay to rape young children.
According to criminal investigator Marc Chadderdon, these “buyers”—the so-called “ordinary” men who drive the demand for sex with children—represent a cross-section of American society: every age, every race, every socio-economic background, cops, teachers, corrections workers, pastors, etc.
And then there are the extra-ordinary men, such as Jeffrey Epstein, the hedge fund billionaire / convicted serial pedophile who was arrested on charges of molesting, raping and sex trafficking dozens of young girls, only to die under highly unusual circumstances.
It is believed that Epstein operated his own personal sex trafficking ring not only for his personal pleasure but also for the pleasure of his friends and business associates. According to The Washington Post, “several of the young women…say they were offered to the rich and famous as sex partners at Epstein’s parties.” At various times, Epstein ferried his friends about on his private plane, nicknamed the “Lolita Express.”
Men like Epstein and his cronies, who belong to a powerful, wealthy, elite segment of society that operates according to their own rules, skate free of accountability by taking advantage of a criminal justice system that panders to the powerful, the wealthy and the elite.
Still, where did this appetite for young girls come from?
Look around you.
Young girls have been sexualized for years now in music videos, on billboards, in television ads, and in clothing stores. Marketers have created a demand for young flesh and a ready supply of over-sexualized children.
“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives,” writes Jessica Bennett for Newsweek. “Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.”
This is what Bennett refers to as the “pornification of a generation.”
In other words, the culture is grooming these young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators.
Social media makes it all too easy. As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on … social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.
Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. Many start out as runaways or throwaways, only to be snatched up by pimps or larger sex rings. Others, persuaded to meet up with a stranger after interacting online through one of the many social networking sites, find themselves quickly initiated into their new lives as sex slaves.
Debbie, a straight-A student who belonged to a close-knit Air Force family living in Phoenix, Ariz., is an example of this trading of flesh. Debbie was 15 when she was snatched from her driveway by an acquaintance-friend. Forced into a car, Debbie was bound and taken to an unknown location, held at gunpoint and raped by multiple men. She was then crammed into a small dog kennel and forced to eat dog biscuits. Debbie’s captors advertised her services on Craigslist. Those who responded were often married with children, and the money that Debbie “earned” for sex was given to her kidnappers. The gang raping continued. After searching the apartment where Debbie was held captive, police finally found Debbie stuffed in a drawer under a bed. Her harrowing ordeal lasted for 40 days.
While Debbie was fortunate enough to be rescued, others are not so lucky.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).
With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.
For those trafficked, it’s a nightmare from beginning to end.
Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed.
Peter Landesman paints the full horrors of life for those victims of the sex trade in his New York Times article “The Girls Next Door”:
Andrea told me that she and the other children she was held with were frequently beaten to keep them off-balance and obedient. Sometimes they were videotaped while being forced to have sex with adults or one another. Often, she said, she was asked to play roles: the therapist patient or the obedient daughter. Her cell of sex traffickers offered three age ranges of sex partners–toddler to age 4, 5 to 12 and teens–as well as what she called a “damage group.” “In the damage group, they can hit you or do anything they want to,” she explained. “Though sex always hurts when you are little, so it’s always violent, everything was much more painful once you were placed in the damage group.”
What Andrea described next shows just how depraved some portions of American society have become. “They’d get you hungry then to train you” to have oral sex. “They put honey on a man. For the littlest kids, you had to learn not to gag. And they would push things in you so you would open up better. We learned responses. Like if they wanted us to be sultry or sexy or scared. Most of them wanted you scared. When I got older, I’d teach the younger kids how to float away so things didn’t hurt.”
Immigration and customs enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., report that when it comes to sex, the appetites of many Americans have now changed. What was once considered abnormal is now the norm. These agents are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. As one agent noted, “We’ve become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit.”
This trend is reflected by the treatment many of the girls receive at the hands of the drug traffickers and the men who purchase them. Peter Landesman interviewed Rosario, a Mexican woman who had been trafficked to New York and held captive for a number of years. She said: “In America, we had ‘special jobs.’ Oral sex, anal sex, often with many men. Sex is now more adventurous, harder.”
A common thread woven through most survivors’ experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men. One woman recounts how her trafficker made her lie face down on the floor when she was pregnant and then literally jumped on her back, forcing her to miscarry.
Holly Austin Smith was abducted when she was 14 years old, raped, and then forced to prostitute herself. Her pimp, when brought to trial, was only made to serve a year in prison.
Barbara Amaya was repeatedly sold between traffickers, abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, and jailed all before she was 18 years old. “I had a quota that I was supposed to fill every night. And if I didn’t have that amount of money, I would get beat, thrown down the stairs. He beat me once with wire coat hangers, the kind you hang up clothes, he straightened it out and my whole back was bleeding.”
As David McSwane recounts in a chilling piece for the Herald-Tribune: “In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,’ as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel’s eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”
One particular sex trafficking ring catered specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it’s a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.
This growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open.
Trafficked children are advertised on the internet, transported on the interstate, and bought and sold in swanky hotels.
Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs, and crime—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police checkpoints, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, while doing little to protect our children from sex predators.