The XX Factor

Human Trafficking Happens Here, Too

A guest post from Double X intern Meredith Simons:

There’s something a little different about the State Department’s most recent annual Trafficking in Persons Report, released Tuesday. Under former Secretary Rice, the reports’ introductions cast the U.S. as a crusader against the evils of human trafficking. “President George W. Bush has committed the United States Government to lead in combating this serious 21st century challenge,” she wrote in 2007 . But Secretary Clinton admits that America has its own “struggle with modern day slavery.” Indeed, on the same day that the report was released, an Atlanta-based coalition was at the Georgia Capitol, arguing that we have to pay attention to “what’s happening under our own noses with our own children.” In Georgia and throughout the U.S., runaway children are routinely reeled in by people who pose as friends but quickly reveal themselves as pimps, the group argues. Internet recruiters look for vulnerable kids online and entice them to join prostitution rings.

In Georgia alone, 200 to 300 girls are pimped out to adult men every month. The Atlanta group is fighting to change a law that allows minors who have been forced into prostitution to be treated like criminals. Now, a 15-year-old girl who had been forced into prostitution could be arrested as a criminal rather than being referred to a social services organization. Victims’ advocates say that if the law is changed, law enforcement officers will be able to arrest the pimps and johns who are exploiting children and take the girls to a place that can offer shelter and support.