Sex obsessed culture, lack of social services blamed for rise in human trafficking forum in US is told
An increasingly sexualized consumer society and inadequate funding for social services are major reasons why more young girls are being pressed into sexual slavery, a human-trafficking expert told a Fort Worth audience last week.
Fishnet-clad dolls, “porn star” T-shirts, Juicy brand jeans and the mainstreaming of the word “pimp” all are signs of “demonic forces” at work in American culture, said Alesia Adams, the Salvation Army’s Atlanta-based human trafficking coordinator. Adams spoke at a forum on the subject at the Salvation Army’s Fort Worth offices.
“I don’t want my granddaughter playing with a doll with hooker heels,” she said.
Adams also criticized what she called a shortage of social services to help desperate young people who might be lured into a life of sex.
“There are more services for animals than for child victims of abuse,” she said.
Texas is a hub for human sex trafficking, said Kathleen Murray, the Fort Worth Police Department’s trafficking coordinator. She estimated that 20 percent of all human trafficking in the United States comes through Texas at some point.
“These cases are within our reach,” she said. “That’s a huge responsibility for Texas.”
The State Department estimates that 300,000 children, mostly runaways, are exploited in the United States each year, Murray said.
Experts at the forum said that no reliable estimates for the amount of local sex trafficking exist.
But they said that The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than from any other state, and 15 percent of those are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
FBI Special Agent Don Freese said forced labor trafficking is harder to detect because it typically involves immigrants bringing in others from their home country to work in private homes.
“Sex trafficking is easier to find,” he said, because it requires interaction with customers, which can open the door for detection by law enforcement.
Deena Graves, executive director of Traffic911, a local nonprofit group that rescues child slavery victims, said human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, second only to drugs in global crime exploits.
Sex trafficking may eventually eclipse drugs, she said.
“You can sell a drug only one time,” she said. “You can sell a person over and over and over. Demand drives the machine.”
A child is sold in the world every two minutes, Graves said, and a third of children who run away from home are forced into prostitution within 48 hours.
“These perpetrators know how to spot a distressed child at malls, bus stations,” she said. “Once they are forced into it, their average life expectancy is seven years” because of disease and violence.
Pornography is the No. 1 driver of child sex exploitation, she said. Often, children are forced to act out scenes in hard-core movies for paying customers, Graves said.
She agreed with Adams that pop culture desensitizes kids and adults to exploitation. She highlighted the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” which won the best original song Oscar from the movie Hustle & Flow and the online game PimpWar.com as examples of glamorizing prostitution and sex slavery.
“You will become a master at the art of pimping your hoes, commanding your thugs and battling your enemies to protect what you have and to help your empire grow,” PimpWar’s online intro boasts.
Graves showed the audience a cropped image of the face of young girl from a pornographic movie.
“This could be your daughter,” she said.