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Child sex trafficking: It's probably not what you think it is

November 25, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

While the term trafficking evokes for many images of children kidnapped off the street, smuggled across borders and moved from place to place, that's rarely the case, social workers and researchers say.

Shandel is among the many victims of sex trafficking, the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

"As much as stories might come out about conspiracies to target people who are relatively safe, relatively less vulnerable, the truth is on the hotline," said Robert Beiser, the strategic initiatives director for sex trafficking at Polaris, which runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

"Our data shows that people are exploited because traffickers know that there are certain groups of people that don't have the support, that don't have the ability to get accountability, or justice for themselves," Beiser said.

"And those people who, if you exploit them, it's much less likely that any problems will come your way as a trafficker or as a sex buyer. "

Focusing on kids being nabbed by strangers or a child trafficking cabal leads people to miss the point, said Rachel Lloyd, who was trafficked as a teenager and later founded GEMS, a non-profit in New York that helps survivors get their life back on track.

"There are girls who are kidnapped and forced into the life, it's just not the most common," Lloyd, whose organization helps hundreds of girls and young women survivors every year, said.

"The label that gets assigned to that child is going to dictate whether they ever get counted in the base number of commercial sexual exploitation," Vardaman said.

The WellHouse houses adult survivors of commercial sex exploitation on its peaceful, 63-acre campus, and many are young women who were trafficked for years, starting in their teens, Potter said.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is "really everywhere," Beiser said.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars generated there in such fines go directly into immediate services for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, Beiser said.

"Over the past 18 years, we've seen tremendous advances in the ability to serve survivors, coming out of situations like that," said Beiser.

"And much more awareness of how social inequality, and even the criminal justice systems, focuses on criminalizing victims of trafficking for crimes like prostitution, rather than rather than sex buyers who have full have decision making over who they exploit. "

While it's difficult to know the effect right now that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the commercial sexual exploitation of children, what's clear is that it is putting more children at risk, Beiser said.

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