Human trafficking is such a horrific concept that it’s difficult to think it happens in real life. We watch movies like “Taken” and believe that what we see on-screen is too disturbing, too scary to be real. For the majority of us, it isn’t real. It is not a danger we will ever face, but for the 82 children who were rescued by the FBI, it has been all too real.
Operation Cross Country X, the FBI operation responsible for rescuing these children, was established in 2003. Since it’s establishment, it has rescued over 6,000 children from the claws of sex-trafficking. This October, they added 82 more names to the list of rescues.
The rescuing operation was executed between October 13 and October 16. Within those 3 days, the FBI caught and arrested 239 sex-traffickers while rescuing the children they were trafficking.
What’s even crazier is that this sex-trafficking is taking place in our own backyard. It is not a distant problem in second or third world countries. Operation Cross Country X is now an international operation collaborating with the governments in Canada, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines, but the U.S is among the countries in which sex trafficking is taking place.
In fact, two of the children rescued this October were sisters from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose own mother was prostituting them and renting their brother’s room to registered sex offenders. In Thailand, an American registered sex offender was arrested by the international law enforcement offices that are collaborating with the FBI. He had coerced five underage Filipino girls to send explicit photos of themselves to him. Another story involves a 5-year-old and her 3-month-old sister who were being sold for $600 in Denver, Colorado.
The stories of how each child ended up in this sex-trafficking ring differ from child-to-child, and each case seems more disturbing than the previous one. But the question remains, what will happen to the future of these children? They were rescued, that’s great. But what now?
I participated in an educational seminar about sex-trafficking this past year and the most valuable lesson I took from it is that once you’re in sex-trafficking, even if you’re in it as a victim, it is very difficult to get out of it. Often times, victims who are rescued end up in sex-trafficking again.
Why? Because it is the only life they know and the only way of making money they know. Many kids who end up in sex-trafficking are actually runaways who left their homes because they were being molested or abused in some way. They are lured by pimps who promise to take care of them so long as they bring back a certain amount of money per night. Even if they are rescued from prostitution by law enforcement, they go back to that lifestyle because it’s how they have learned to survive.
Thus, the biggest challenge these rescued children face once they are out of sex-trafficking is staying out of it. Law enforcement did their part to rescue these children, but it is a community effort to ensure their success.
The Office for Victims of Crime, or OVC, has several resources available for those interested in helping and they are categorized by geographical areas. Visit https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/humantrafficking/providers.html and learn about the volunteering opportunities near you if you’re interested in helping.
You could also look into local churches around you. Many of them have programs designed to help victims of these sorts of crimes.
And lastly, if you have the resources, another way in which you can help is by adopting one of these children. They’re not the cute, newborn babies adopting parents often look for. They are the kids with a heavy past, but they are the ones that need a good home the most. Provide them with a future and a life they once thought would never belong to them.