Sex trafficking. Two words used enough to think we know their meaning, when in fact we all to often underestimate the scope of the term. Indeed, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) definition of trafficking in the U.S. is wider than just transporting someone across state lines. The definition reads as anyone who is made to perform commercial sex acts by force, fraud or coercion is a victim of trafficking.
What we do know however is that tens of thousands of children, both boys and girls, are abused and exploited this way, every day, in the U.S. and globally. The TIP Office puts out an annual report of the status of how countries around the world are fighting trafficking, and with a rating system holding them accountable for progress to help children.
When Childhood was founded in 1999, the problem of trafficking had just started being identified as a major area where children were being victimized and traumatized. In an effort to get at this problem, The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office), located under the U.S. Department of State, was created in 2001 as part of the TVPA of 2000.
Childhood had already started the funding of projects focusing on sexual abused and exploitation children when TVPA was created, but have not since specifically targeted projects that combat trafficking. Instead, Childhood still primarily focuses on the prevention of trafficking. By raising awareness of the risk of trafficking in all projects that we fund, providing a stronger support system for the children risk and increasing their protection, we know that sexual abuse can be prevented. What better way to save a child?
Missing children, children in foster care and abusing and selling children on internet sites, are all areas where children are being victims and targets of abuse. In most of these cases, many of us believe that these children are far away. But the overwhelming fact is that we don’t have to go to a country overseas to find children who have been or are victims of sex trafficking. We only need to truly comprehend what the definition of this kind of abuse actually is to realize that it happens all around us.
A homeless child, a child from a broken home, or a child whose parents are poor faces a series of vulnerable moments where abuse can happen. We need to protect children from these vulnerable moments and focus on supporting families to not lose their homes. We need to support families that are breaking apart, and make sure that families can support themselves and their children.
Taken together, and perhaps unlikely in people’s minds, these kind of actions are actually the true prevention of trafficking.
We ask you to help us make sure that a child near you is not facing one of these vulnerable moments of abuse. To see a child near you and to respect his or her rights, is the first step of protecting them from harm and preventing abuse. That's how we can all be part of making sex trafficking stop.
Executive Director, Childhood USA