Written by Brittni Bryan, Second Life of Chattanooga Intern

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You may think you have a pretty good idea of what Human Trafficking is and where it happens. Maybe you picture cramped attics in Eastern Europe or shacks in Asia, India, or Africa. But do you truly fully grasp that this horrific issue is present right here in the United States? In a country that prides itself on being the “land of the free” there is an insidious problem: sex slavery of humans, and in particular children. The beast of child sex trafficking is not only alive, but thriving.

In fact, a recent estimate by US Immigration stated that this industry brings in upwards of $9.5 billion dollars annually. If you want something to compare this enormous number to, just take the annual profit margin made by Burger King – $48.6 million according to Forbes, and quadruple it!

So, now you may be thinking that it’s just terrible how we bring in innocent children from other countries to fuel this dastardly industry right here on our soil. Well, while that is true, the fact is that 83 percent of sex trafficking incidents in the U.S. involved victims that were U.S. citizens, nearly half of whom were minors. By continuing to turn our heads on this problem, we are not only letting children be imported into our country like commodities, we are also allowing our own neighbors, students, family members, and the children of our hometowns to be bought and sold, beaten, raped, and emotionally and psychologically abused as if they were products or possessions.

The importance of our fight is highlighted in a powerful article from Cracked.com that details the experience of a survivor of Human Trafficking in the United States. The survivor interviewed for this article was actually ‘rented out’ by her parents starting when she was only a few years beyond toddlerhood. Her parents used the internet as a conduit for her slavery, advertising her in online chat rooms and on websites like Backpage. In the several instances when she tried to reach out to adults in her world who had the ability to help her, they went straight to her parents for confirmation, which only resulted in more abuse being directed towards her.

When she was only 14, her parents began to bargain with various men for a child marriage arrangement. As I read this article, I was of course asking myself where in the world were the authorities when all this was happening. Well she eventually addressed that too. She said that the small town where she lived,it was a common belief that what parents did with their kids was their business and there was kind of a “pretend not to see, don’t tell” sort of mentality. This environment contributed to her torture continuing unchecked for many years until she was finally ‘sold’ into marriage. After several long-term arrangements with men who controlled every aspect of her existence, she was finally able to escape, but she will bear the physical, psychological, and emotional scares of her experience for the rest of her life.

This narrative represents the horrific experience of only one of our country’s children. As the nature of these insidious crimes is extremely sequestered,there is no way to fully estimate the vast number of children currently in bondage and at the mercy of malicious acts and lustful fantasies. When did we begin to think that it was acceptable to turn and look the other way as such acts continue to play out on the stage in almost every community in our country?

The scope of the battle to end human trafficking may seem extremely daunting, and we may have no idea where to begin our fight, but this cannot be an excuse for passively standing by and continuing to let this beast thrive in the shadows.

For the complete article, or for more information on how Human Trafficking effects citizens of the United States, you can visit:

http://www.cracked.com/article_21538_5-things-i-learned-as-sex-slave-in-modern-america.html
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cshti0810.pdf
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28161210/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/sex-slavery-living-american-nightmare/#.VCoMSfldVg8