Stories of children being abducted and sold into slavery for the use of sexual abuse and prostitution are more prevalent than ever. This form of child abuse is probably one that is least talked about.
The United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.
Trafficking can involve school-age children—particularly those not living with their parents—who are vulnerable to coerced labor exploitation, domestic servitude, or commercial sexual exploitation (i.e., prostitution).
Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as the market demand for young victims. Those who recruit minors into prostitution violate federal anti-trafficking laws, even if there is no coercion or movement across state lines. The children at risk are not just high school students—studies demonstrate that pimps prey on victims as young as 12. Traffickers have been reported targeting their minor victims through telephone chat-lines, clubs, on the street, through friends, and at malls, as well as using girls to recruit other girls at schools and after-school programs.?
The Department of Justice estimates that more than 250,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The average age of entry for female prostitutes in the United States is between 12 and 14 years, and children and youth older than 12 are prime targets for sexual exploitation by organized crime units, according to a 2001 report.
In addition to domestic girls who are exploited, about 14,500 to 17,500 girls from other countries are smuggled into the United States for this purpose, according to the State Department.
“Why is this happening? There is the Internet, which has created an easy and accessible venue for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. As a result, young girls are the new commodities that traffickers and gangs are selling. And, there isn’t a culture of crime and punishment for selling girls as there is for selling illegal drugs.
The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking (FCAHT) is an entity within The Immigrant Rights Advocacy Center, Inc. (IRAC) a non-for-profit corporation, since May 17, 2004. The organization was created in 2004 by Anna Rodriguez, who has extensive experience in how to identify victims, provide advocacy, and understand how to pursue justice for victims based on her experience in law enforcement, assistance for prosecution, and active participation delivering the human trafficking case law.
Florida is the second largest hub of human trafficking in the U.S. However, since 1996 only 6 cases of slavery have actually been brought to federal court. One of these successful cases was U.S. V. Pompee, which required cross-agency collaboration. On March 23, 2004, a federal grand jury indicted Willie and Marie Pompee with smuggling and harboring a young Haitian girl and using her as a household servant in their south Florida home between 1996 and 1999. If convicted, the Pompees each face a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 plus restitution to the victim.