Compiled by Kevin Siers for The Charlotte Observer on January 2, 2014—
“From Tiffany Barclay, a University of Southern California graduate student who lives in Mooresville:
According to the FBI, sex trafficking of adults and children is the “fastest growing business of organized crime, and the third largest criminal enterprise in the world.” An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children are victims of sex trafficking each year.
However, many of us still believe that this problem is not happening in our community. North Carolina is estimated to be in the top eight states for human trafficking in the United States. According to Polaris Project (one of the largest national anti-trafficking organizations), sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Incidents have been uncovered amongst a wide variety of venues within the sex industry including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs and street prostitution.
A bill is before Congress that would be a strong combatant against sex trafficking of minors. The End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013 (H.R. 2805) specifically targets offenders who exploit children for sex trafficking. H.R. 2805 amends the federal code to expand the scope of prohibitions on sex trafficking. The changes would mean that patrons as well as pimps who exploit minors for sex would face a fine and imprisonment of no less than 15 years if the minor is less than 14 years of age at the time of the offense. If the minor is older than 14 and less than 18 years of age at the time of the offense, the offender faces a fine and no less than 10 years in prison.
In the past few years, the knowledge of human trafficking has increased tremendously. North Carolina is home to many nonprofit anti-trafficking organizations that have helped to raise awareness. Still, many do not understand the magnitude of the problem on a local level.
Charlotte is not at all immune to sex trafficking of minors. Because of Charlotte’s close proximity to Atlanta which is another hub for these offenses, a lot of young girls are transported through various means between the two cities for sex trafficking. Venues such as large conventions, concerts and sporting events are prime opportunities for young girls to be transported to Charlotte by the van load and coerced or forced to engage in illicit acts to earn money for their pimps, “boyfriends” and even family members.
The true number of sex trafficking victims is unknown as incidents are underreported and difficult to track which indicates this crime is happening more frequently than most of us can probably imagine. As a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California, I have learned that any type of person can become a victim of human trafficking. A colleague recently disclosed that she was sexually exploited by her father at the age of nine years old. It can be difficult to put into perspective just how close to home this is happening until one personally knows an individual who has been a victim.
One thing everyone can do to help eradicate this form of modern day slavery is to speak to friends, family, and co-workers about this issue and help raise awareness. Another way to get involved is by voting for lawmakers who advocate for victims of sex trafficking and support bills like H.R. 2805. Sex trafficking is a serious issue happening to friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members in our communities. It’s not specific to one age group, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. And it’s possible that you know someone who is or has been a victim of a form of human trafficking.”
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