Check out this pertinent discussion on the issues around sex trafficking in the United States.

Caren Smolenski who is the executive director of ECPAT (an international organization dedicated to ending child slavery), breaks down some of the implications and barriers specific to understanding sex trafficking in America."Most people think it happens over there; some other place" says Caren. Sex trafficking is an issue that a bulk of American perceive as happening only in severely impoverished and foreign countries.

The reality however, is that there exists a system of supply and demand in America that goes virtually under the radar of the American media because of how we as a culture perceive victims. Caren makes the point that it's easy to point the blame at a pedophile. When the victim is clearly a helpless child who is unwilling or unable to give consent, the issue is clear and people respond with appropriate outrage. However, the actual average age for a youth to enter into sex trafficking in the United States is 12 years old. For some reason, it exists as a cultural norm in American society to perceive any individual past the initial stages of puberty as having the cognitive, emotional, and experiential development needed to consent to sex. When the individual involved in the exchange of sex for money or services is under 18 but above the age of 11, it's seen to many Americans as a "victimless crime" or the fault of the individual trying to provide for themselves off of said services.

To say there is no victim in this scenario is simply not true. It's in fact, this very mind set which is permissive to the injustice faced by the nearly 100,000 youth who are filtered into the commercial sex  industry every year. Lastly, and perhaps the most compelling point made in this interview about the youth who are targeted for sexual exploitation is the fact that many of them started as child victims of another system. As you've probably guessed, that system is foster care. Pimps and sex traffickers are seeking children who are vulnerable and who don't have loving families; youth who've already experienced so much abuse that subjecting themselves to sexual exploitation might not be their worst option. One pimp is reported as saying that " these kids have been raped so many times that it's my job to simply teach them they might as well get paid for it".

I don't want to imagine an individual who's heart wouldn't drop after having heard that. What does it say about a system that endangers a child's well-being and safety to the point in which they would escape into a life of sexual exploitation as a reprieve from the abuse they've already experienced? In my humble opinion, it means that not only said system is broken but furthermore is failing the children it was designed to protect.

For more information about ECPAT follow the link below