CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Documentaries about a vicious type of crime -- sexual trafficking in teenage girls -- are reappearing on television. Last week, MSNBC told of American teens who were abducted, drugged, beaten and raped to force them into prostitution. Maddeningly, police were slow to believe desperate parents, and brushed off victims as mere runaways.
Worldwide, sex trafficking is a monstrous evil. The U.N.'s International Labor Organization estimates that about 12 million people around the planet are held in forced bondage of all sorts at any given time -- most of them women or girls coerced into the sex trade.
Victims usually are poor teens from southern Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Latin America or other places with few opportunities. They're tricked by phony promises of jobs, education or marriage -- then brutalized into sexual servitude. Many are transported to foreign countries where they can't speak the language and don't know how to escape from confined quarters. They're vulnerable to disease, pregnancy, drug addiction and violence, even murder.
The U.S. State Department estimates that up to 900,000 victims are trafficked across borders each year, perhaps 20,000 of them into America. Some U.S. men travel to foreign countries for "sex tours," while others visit U.S. brothels. In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in an attempt to break up girl-smuggling rings and jail operators.
The U.S. Administration for Children and Families warns that some young women are kidnapped outright, while others are "sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends."
The national YWCA reports that "human trafficking generates $9.5 billion in annual revenue and is the... fastest-growing criminal industry in the world."
American girls who drop out of school, run away from home, sink into drug abuse, live temporarily with friends, etc., are easy prey for traffickers. But the criminal enterprise also can snare more secure young women.Parents should strive to warn daughters of this menace -- perhaps by pinning this editorial to their bedroom doors.