John Whitehead's Commentary
Evil Walks Among Us: Child Trafficking Has Become Big Business in America
“Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”—John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
It takes a special kind of evil to prostitute and traffick a child for sex, and yet this evil walks among us every minute of every day.
Consider this: every two minutes, a child is bought and sold for sex.
Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States alone.
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 to 500,000 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 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.”
Like so many of the evils in our midst, sex trafficking (and the sexualization of young people) is a cultural disease that is rooted in the American police state’s heart of darkness. It speaks to a sordid, far-reaching corruption that stretches from the highest seats of power (governmental and corporate) down to the most hidden corners and relies on our silence and our complicity to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.
It is estimated that the number of children who are at risk of being trafficked or have already been sold into the sex trade would fill 1300 school buses.
The internet has become the primary means of sexual predators targeting and selling young children for sex. “One in five kids online are sexually propositioned through gaming platforms and other social media. And those, non-contact oriented forums of sexual exploitation are increasing,” said researcher Brian Ulicny.
It’s not just young girls who are vulnerable, 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).”
Every year, the ages of the girls and boys being bought and sold get 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.”
“They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “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.
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.
America’s police forces—riddled with corruption, brutality, sexual misconduct and drug abuse—represent another facet of the problem: police have become both predators and pimps. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “Hundreds of police officers across the country have turned from protectors to predators, using the power of their badge to extort sex.”
Young girls are particularly vulnerable to these predators in blue.
Former police officer Phil Stinson estimates that half of the victims of police sex crimes are minors under the age of eighteen. According to The Washington Post, a national study found that 40 percent of reported cases of police sexual misconduct involved teens.
For example, in California, a police sergeant—a 16-year veteran of the police force—was arrested for raping a 16-year-old girl who was being held captive and sold for sex in a home in an upscale neighborhood.
A Pennsylvania police chief and his friend were arrested for allegedly raping a young girl hundreds of times—orally, vaginally, and anally several times a week—over the course of seven years, starting when she was 4 years old.
Two NYPD cops were accused of arresting a teenager, handcuffing her, and driving her in an unmarked van to a nearby parking lot, where they raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on them, then dropped her off on a nearby street corner.
The New York Times reports that “a sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio was charged with sexually assaulting the 4-year-old daughter of an undocumented Guatemalan woman and threatening to have her deported if she reported the abuse.”
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. Whether or not the Super Bowl is 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.
Finally, as I documented in an earlier column, 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 children 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.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, as I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, 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 check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public while doing little to actually protect our children from sex predators.
That so many children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.