In the U.S., child prostitution has been considered a “dirty little secret” that no one wants to talk about, but that is deeply embedded in our society.
Federal efforts, like the operation during the weekend that captured 150 pimps and freed 105 minors, are part of a long-term strategy that in recent years has rescued more than 2,700 minors from the claws of prostitution.
Every boy or girl who is rescued is important and vital. However, there are still hundreds of thousands of minors being forced into sex trafficking on a daily basiswhether they are being offered online, on the streets, in casinos or at truck stops.
The majority of these children and teens ran away from home, were thrown out or fell between the cracks of a defective foster care system, and innocently fell prey to criminals.
Actions like the FBI’s Operation Cross Country, along with operations carried out by local authorities, are necessary weapons in this strugglebut not the only ones.
As much as possible, it is necessary to prevent children from getting into a vulnerable situation by reinforcing the foster care system. It is also urgent that laws clearly consider these youths what they arevictims of sexual exploitationinstead of seeing them as juvenile delinquents.
At the same time, we believe that the customers of this despicable industry must also be prosecuted with the full force of the law. Without them, there would be no incentive for this cruel exploitation.
It is very easy to imagine that child prostitution is a problem that only involves poor, backwards countries, and that in our nation these cases are the exception; but that is not true. The most conservative Justice Department estimates show that more than 300,000and even up to 800,000minors are involved. And 75% of them are exploited by pimps, according to the University of Pennsylvania.
We hope that the minors who were rescued can rebuild their livesdamaged at such an early ageand that we don’t forget that there are many more waiting to be freed.