The crime of human trafficking is one of the most egregious human rights violations and it is happening in our own New Hampshire communities. Its victims are domestic runaways being taken in by traffickers and forced to trade sex for a place to sleep. They are girls being baited into “the life” by a presumed boyfriend who later reveals himself as a pimp. They are individuals lured into this country with false promises of legitimate work, only to be forced into the sex industry on arrival. Much like a victim of domestic violence, human trafficking victims are trapped by fear, isolation and brutality at the hands of their traffickers and those who purchase them for sex.
Victimization of children through human trafficking is a brutal form of child sexual abuse, yet it is often overlooked and unrecognized. Within the United States it is estimated that nearly 300,000 children are trafficked for sex every year. The majority of these victims are runaway and “throwaway” homeless youth, who often have a history of truancy and running away that was precipitated by sexual and other abuse at home. Nationally, 450,000 children run away from home each year and one of every three will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. This means at least 150,000 children are lured into prostitution each year. The average age of children for entry into prostitution in the United States is 12 years old.
What can be done to prevent other children and teens from being victimized? A first step is addressing the truth about trafficking. Put simply, human trafficking is the selling of human beings for profit through sexual exploitation, forced labor or involuntary domestic servitude. Experts estimate that annually human trafficking reaps $32 billion in illegal profits which makes it the second-largest and fastest-growing black market in the world.