The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines child sex trafficking as “in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”
300,000 children in the United States are prostituted each year; are victims of child sex trafficking. Across the globe, it is a $32 billion industry each year. For these hundreds of thousands of children, a life of horror and danger is forced upon them as they serve as prostitutes for local and global criminal organizations.
Many of these victims are children from the foster care system. In 2013, 60 percent of children who victims of child sex trafficking rescued from a FBI nationwide raid conducted over 70 cities were children from foster care or group homes. These children were found in hotel rooms, truck stops, and even homes; these children as young as four years of age, according to Dr. Kaylani Gopal, the founder and president of the SAFE Coalition for Human Rights.
Foster children can be particularly vulnerable to sexual predators. Foster children often experience higher levels of anxiety than other children, and this can manifest itself in a number of ways. Perhaps the one that foster children face the most is separation anxiety, an excessive concern that children struggle with concerning the separation from their home, family, and to those they are attached to the most. Without a doubt, the more a child is moved, from home to home, from foster placement to another foster placement, or multiple displacements, the bigger the concern becomes. Those children who undergo many multiple displacements often times create walls to separate themselves in an attempt to not let others into their lives. Still, others feel starved for a sense of family and of belonging. To be sure, this type of anxiety and insecurity can make them vulnerable to sexual predators, as children in foster care search for love. For those foster children who have been abused in some way in the past, they may be more likely to show inappropriate sexual behavior or seek out love in appropriate places.
Tragically, for so many children in foster care, the search for love leads to a road of sexual exploitation. Foster children often are in need of love, yet do not know what a healthy and loving relationship is. With no one to show them early in their lives what true unconditional or healthy loving relationships are, children in foster care mistakenly seek it out, often times online. What many foster parents do not know, though, is how easy it is for foster children to encounter sexual predators online. These sexual predators know that foster children are particularly vulnerable to this kind of assault.
Most prostituted youth today come from environments where they have already been sexually abused. To be sure, the majority of children in America who are exploited sexually have already endured a life of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. Indeed, the contributor to a child entering into a life of child sex trafficking is a prior life of sexual abuse. Along with this, many of these children who have already been exposed to sexual abuse have problems with low self esteem, and do not receive the educational opportunities they deserve. Foster children often come from environments of these forms of abuse. Teens that age out of the foster care system are also more likely to end up homeless, and may choose a life style of prostitution in order to “make ends meet,” financially, so to speak. These youth are more inclined to be placed into foster homes or group homes, and are also more likely to run away. Pimps also attract foster children by targeting them in group homes, promising them gifts, a sense of belonging, and a place where they will be loved, as well as encouraging them with presents and gifts, all while grooming them for a life as a child prostitute.
Each child is precious. Each child is a gift. Each child needs to be protected. There are roughly 500,000 children in foster care today. There are thousands of children who need someone to protect them from a sexual predator, who need someone to rescue them from child sex trafficking. There are thousands of children who need people to stand up for them. Perhaps even in your own neighborhood or city, there is a child from foster care who is a victim of child sex trafficking who needs someone to help them; someone like you.
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