Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:
what is our response to sex trafficking within our own communities?
Here are the unacceptable facts of violence against girls: It cuts across any divide of race, class, ethnicity and educational background. One in four girls will experience some form of sexual violence by the time she reaches 18. Teenaged girls of all races, from across the economic spectrum, are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. For girls and women ages 15-44, homicide is the leading cause of death. And then there are the countless faces of girls listed as missing in newspapers, on milk cartons or posted signs.
So many of them, like Shaniya, were also subject to being trafficked. It is presently less risky and more profitable to sell girls rather than illegal drugs. As evidenced by the war on drugs or the fierce police response to the trafficking of meth, there are severe repercussions in a culture of crime and punishment for illegal drug trafficking. There is a significantly less punitive culture for selling girls. Rarely do pimps or clients receive serious prison sentences for exploiting girls.
What is happening that girls' lives are worth so little?
Perversely, it is the girls—not the men—who suffer from any kind of criminalization of trafficking. Girls who've been trafficked frequently end up arrested for prostitution; prostitution is among the leading reasons for girls' incarceration. Girls arrested for prostitution are detained in juvenile facilities, where they are often subject to more incidents of sexual abuse by the staff.
In the juvenile justice system, 73 percent of girls have been subject to sexual abuse prior to incarceration. A recent Oregon Social Learning Center study of chronically delinquent girls found that the median age of first sexual encounter among detained girls was 7. The typical age of a girl being trafficked is 14.
And remember, these are not girls from other countries. They are American girls, girls from places like Dayton, Ohio and Compton, Calif. In small towns and large urban areas, they are kidnapped or tricked by pimps into a life of prostitution.
I first encountered these vulnerable girls as a law student trying to think about how to bring the issue of women's rights as human rights home to the U.S. During those years, I met young women in Washington, D.C., Ohio and California who had been brutally trafficked, abused, molested and raped—just like girls in developing nations. Yet they were not usually perceived as victims. Instead they were cast as "hos," prostitutes or "bad girls" dispatched to youth detention centers. No one was talking about educational initiatives, micro loans, psychiatric services or human rights for them.