Monday, March 24, 2008

U.S. Children are Victims of Sex Trafficking

Assessments of Service Delivery and Provision Reveal Gaps and Challenges

The following is a press release dated today:

Washington DC – Shared Hope International (SHI) has identified a startling trend: American
children are victims of the sex trade and they are being trafficked within the United States.
SHI research reveals that Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is a critical problem in many
locations across the U.S.

Human rights investigations by SHI have verified that disturbing numbers of American children
are lured and forced into prostitution. These innocent victims are supplying a demand for paid
sex, a human commodity that SHI investigators find horrifyingly easy to buy.
“If you pay the price you can get what you want, and I can get it for you. Now if you want
something really young, that $200, it’s just going to cost you a little bit more than that.” A trafficker
says to an undercover SHI investigator.

American children are prostituted by pimps on the streets, sold over the Internet, and exploited
through pornography and strip dancing. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides
that any minor exploited in the commercial sex market is a trafficking victim… yet SHI has
identified trafficked children incarcerated across the country for prostitution and related charges.
“I always felt like a criminal. I never felt like a victim at all,” says “Tonya”, a teenage trafficking
victim who was lured into prostitution by a pimp at age 12. “Victims don’t do time in jail, they work
on the healing process. I was a criminal because I spent time in jail.”

SHI has found that these children are often labeled as “child prostitutes”. In the few instances
they are properly identified as victims, there are no protective shelter options and they are often
placed in detention facilities with juveniles who have committed serious offenses.
“At an average age of 12 these children are lured and snatched by traffickers. It is a severe
injustice when American girls are held in physical and mental slavery and then punished for the
crime that is committed against them” said SHI President and Founder U.S. Congresswoman
Linda Smith (1994-1998).

SHI was awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,
Bureau of Justice Assistance (DOJ/BJA) to conduct field assessments in 10 U.S. locations
examining two critical issues: the identification of DMST victims and the service delivery to these
victims. The assessments will be released starting the last week of March. The locations include:
Las Vegas, NV; Clearwater, FL; New Orleans/Baton Rouge, LA; Dallas, TX; Independence, MO;
Ft. Worth, TX; The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; San Antonio, TX; Salt Lake
City, UT; and Buffalo, NY.

About Shared Hope International
Shared Hope International rescues and restores women and children in crisis. For almost a
decade, SHI has worked diligently around the world in partnership with local groups to prevent
trafficking and to rescue and restore the victims of sexual slavery, bringing hope to women and
children everywhere. For more information visit

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