Minor sex-trafficking is a form of human trafficking whereby a person under the age of 18 is forced to engage in a commercial sex act. In the United States each year, approximately 300,000 children – at the average age of 12 – are prostituted against their will, forced to provide sexual acts for an average of 15 men a night.
Florida ranks third in the country – behind California and Texas – among states with the highest activity of human trafficking. Specifically, the Tampa Bay area’s tourism industry, adult entertainment industry and international seaports and airports create a lucrative and highly accessible environment for minor sex-traffickers.
Child sex-trafficking is a horrific crime that robs the innocence of its victims and causes significant physical, mental and emotional trauma. The average length of survival for a trapped child sex-trafficking victim is seven years.
Victims of minor sex-trafficking are typically kidnapped or have run away from home. Florida has approximately 30,000-40,000 teenage runaways and throwaways each year, some being abused by a family member or forced out of their homes. In the Tampa Bay area, 75 percent of trafficked children are runaways.
One out of three runaway teens will be lured by a sex-trafficker and forced to prostitute within 48 hours of being on her own, according to the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children (NISMART-2). Young runaways may be approached by a man, or sometimes a woman, who compliments them and offers a meal, a place to stay or a job. Through physical force, fraud or coercion, the Trafficker then induces the victim to engage in commercial sex acts, such as prostitution, exotic dancing/stripping or pornography. They are forced to do this in hotel rooms, private residences, adult clubs, vehicles and on the street. Some are sold abroad and some are brought into areas hosting large sporting events and conventions.
Each year the Tampa FBI rescues approximately 50 or more minor sex-trafficking victims. Sadly, there are few local rehabilitative facilities in which to place them. The girls are either placed in runaway shelters, domestic violence shelters or foster care, and with no rehabilitative treatment to help them heal, they are very likely to run away again, back to their Traffickers, due to trauma bonding.
Criminals who engage in human trafficking include international organized criminals, mom-and-pop businesses, parents and individuals simply looking to make money. Human trafficking criminals include U.S. citizens and members of the victims’ own ethnic and national community.
Minor sex-traffickers target local American victims through the Internet and false advertisements of employment, as well as at malls, bus stops, fast food restaurants, near runaway shelters and outside juvenile court.
Traffickers look for vulnerable children and teens, then use multiple means to control them, such as physical violence, isolation, drug and alcohol dependency.
Unlike drugs and arms traffickers, human traffickers can continue to exploit their victims after the initial point of sale. A person can be sold over and over again.
The United Nations indicates there are up to 27 million people being trafficked at any point in time, generating $32 billion each year. If there were no buyer, the nightmare of minor sex-trafficking would not exist. Inconceivably, buyers often confess that they thought the child was a willing participant in what was happening.
Bridging Freedom’s mission is to combat minor sex-trafficking by bringing restoration to those rescued and victim prevention to those we reach with our message. We educate the community and work with partnering organizations to increase awareness about this horrendous issue. We are also working to build Florida’s first successful therapeutic safe home to campus provide long-term, comprehensive care to these victims in a secure environment.
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