Between 2008 and 2010, 83 percent of all sex trafficking victims in the United States were U.S. citizens. While legislation working to protect human trafficking victims has made its way in states across the U.S. recently, newly proposed legislation in Nebraska has taken protection for human trafficking victims one step further — giving immunity to anyone younger than 18 who is arrested for prostitution.
Introduced by state Sen. Amanda McGill (D), the bill adds human trafficking of a minor to the state’s definition of child abuse and increases the penalties for soliciting, pandering, corrupting a minor, and running a brothel. McGill’s legislation also would require law enforcement to collect and maintain information about human traffickers and victims.
McGill said she chose to focus the bill on minors because they are often forced into prostitution.
“Anyone who is a minor who is performing sex acts for money is not doing it by choice,” she said. “It isn’t something that should be prosecuted.”
A study by a Nebraska human trafficking task force found that one of the state’s main freeways, Interstate 80, is a major conduit for the drug and sex trades.
Looking for love in all the wrong places
Lured by promises of love, jobs or protection, more than 1 million children enter the world of sex trafficking each year, according to the United Nations International Children’s Fund. In the last 30 years, about 30 million children were forced into the sex industry.
According to Shared Hope International, children become prostitutes around the age of 13 on average. More than 50 percent of sex trafficking victims were classified as runaway youth living on the street.
Pimps often promise the children a better life than what they had at home, and as the nonprofit organization Children of the Night reports, these children often feel life with a pimp is better than the life they had at home.
According to Children of the Night, which claims to be the only full-service organization in the U.S. that works to rescue children from a life of prostitution, pimps often promise these children, “If you work hard I will put together the money and buy a business and a home and you can have my baby.”
When a child decides they’ve had enough of prostitution, many become homeless before they are drawn back to the streets, where the lifestyle they can afford is much more than a shelter can offer. A report from the Polaris Project estimated that a pimp with three girls or women can earn about $1,500 a night — $500 from each girl. Pimps that maintain an average earning of $1,500 a night for a year have the ability to make at least $547,500.
Fueled by demand
Another factor that keeps the industry alive is the demand for child sex slaves from customers.
Officials in a New York suburb on Tuesday announced a prostitution ring bust, dubbed “flush the johns,” that led to the arrest of about 104 men between April 18 and May 24.
The suspects were arrested after responding to an online ad for escort services and then meeting at a local hotel or motel where they tried to proposition an undercover detective who was posing as a prostitute. Those arrested included doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, college professors, college students, a teacher, a stockbroker and a car salesman.
Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, offered advice to people thinking about hiring an escort service.
“Stop,” she said in an interview with local media. “You’re going to be caught and your mugshot could end up right like these men. Sex trafficking is horrific and the johns who patronize prostitutes create the demand.”
Adults looking for a sexual relationship often turn to the Internet to find a child. According to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, girls are sold for sex on average five times a day using the Internet and escort services. That number does not include any sexual acts occurring at a hotel, on the street or as part of gang activity.
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