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On sex trafficking trade
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One of the darker aspects of our society involves the forced prostitution business, or as it is more appropriately called, the sex slave trade. By itself, non-compelled prostitution has many problems attached to it, despite claims that it is a "victimless" crime. Enslaved prostitutes face an entirely different situation with ruinous consequences.

The sex slave trade involves crime at the international level. Women and girls are the primary victims, but boys are also victimized as sex slaves. Many foreigners fall into the sex slave trap by being promised lucrative jobs in the United States, while some are outright abducted, and others are bought from their impoverished families.

Once these victims arrive, their passports are taken away (if they had one). They are subjected to physical and mental abuse, being told they must now pay a debt before they are allowed to go free. The debt keeps accumulating, however, and because of manipulation by their captors, the victims can never pay off what they owe.

The victims are carefully watched and disallowed any possessions. When they "misbehave," the victims are beaten and threatened. Even more effective than the physical abuse are the criminals' threats to kill family members who remain in their country of origin. Since these victims technically do not "exist" in the United States (owing to the fact that they have no identification or history in this country) they are subject to being killed, since their absence probably goes unreported. That threat hangs heavy over the victims, so they are likely to abide their captors' demands.

Women are also enslaved into migrant work camps and forced to perform sexual services for the workers. Such women are brought into this country by "coyotes" who promise them legitimate, good jobs. When they arrive, they are threatened with being reported for immigration violations, and like the other victims, they are also beaten and psychologically abused.

Some sex slave victims are United States citizens. These are the ones who may have run away from home. After these runaways find themselves on the streets broke and homeless, they frequently resort to providing sex for money. Inevitably, their activities lead to a pimp taking control of their lives through brute force, drug dependency and psychological manipulation. Once they fall under the purview of a pimp, they grow dependent and are psychologically abused into believing there is no way out of their predicament.

In recent years, elements of our society have glorified pimps. It used to be that the word "pimp" defined something bad, illegal and immoral, someone who is an oppressor of women. Now the word has less negative connotation. In popular culture, the word pimp is fashionable or cool. And to be a pimp now, for some, has the underlying suggestion that it is acceptable, sexy, and fun. This transmogrification of the word "pimp" results from the way pimps have been represented in music videos, movies, etc. The fact is that the profit-driven media excludes the criminal, seamy and dangerous side of being a prostitute caught in the clutches of a pimp's world. This has led to young, impressionable people thinking that being a "hoe" might be fun, profitable and even glamorous. Once they get into this virtually inescapable world, they find out how seriously mistaken they were. The popular culture media does not address the diseases, beatings, rapes, long term psychological damage or the deaths associated with these relationships.

The United States is a large consumer nation, and just like the innumerable products we receive from all over the world, we are among the leading importers of sex slaves. There are tens of thousands of victims that have fallen into a sex slave situation, but because it is such a secretive and protected world, few "average" citizens ever become aware of the problem. I suspect that even the people who buy the services of prostitutes are also unaware that a large percentage of them are actually enslaved victims. People who engage in these activities with those who are obviously juveniles surely must know that those kids are likely lost, trapped or have been kidnapped. Regardless of what the users of these "services" think or know, they are themselves committing criminal acts.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the American cities with the highest amount of sex trafficking of juveniles are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington, D.C. According to the FBI, as many as 40 percent of all forced prostitutes are juveniles.

The sex slave business also includes the production of pornography. Juveniles featured in pornographic films are almost always forced into servitude. Adults who end up in porn magazines and films are also frequently drawn from foreign countries against their will.

The space for this column does not allow for the full description of the sex trafficking trade, nor is it possible to adequately describe the living hell in which its victims find themselves. It is a 24 hour-a-day nightmare from which they cannot escape. Those who use their "services" make this perverse, immoral and illegal industry possible.

Law enforcement at the local, state, national and international levels are aware of this terrible crime and we are continuously improving our ability to track down and arrest the criminals who perpetrate these sex slave crimes. The federal government has made the apprehension and prosecution of trafficking suspects a priority. In an address to the United Nations, President George Bush called the sex slave trade "a humanitarian crisis." Fortunately, this problem has begun to receive the attention it deserves and requires. The suffering and difficulties for each victim is not voluntary or willing. The only thing they have to protect them is law enforcement and a society that is intolerant to this kind of crime.