“A lot of people think that sex trafficking, a form of human slavery, is only and primarily happening overseas… happening in India or Thailand or Africa” said Katie Pedigo, Executive Director of New Friends New Life,(www.newfriendsnewlife.org) a faith-based nonprofit that works to restore and empower human trafficking victims. “It is somehow comforting to be able to place this tragedy outside our borders. We don’t have to deal with it, dirty our hands with it, face the reality, or find a solution.”
The unfortunate fact is that sex trafficking is happening right here in the Metroplex in alarming numbers. Nationally, Texas ranks second only to California in the number of children trafficked according to the FBI calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Only recently, we have the highly publicized case of the young man allegedly kidnapped at the supposed age of 4, who at age 17 is now being used to recruit victims out of an Hurst Elementary School for the perpetrator of child pornography This is just the tip of the explosive epidemic of child exploitation.
I applaud Larry James for his informative Op-ed on the plight of the homeless in Dallas. He clearly illuminates the numerous problems those without homes face: identifying a place to just sit and rest, landing a job, finding emergency shelter or food, the reality of the day to day challenges of poverty.
I would add that poverty and homelessness are major contributors to human trafficking. As a result, the consequence for young persons, girls and boys who have fallen onto hard times, or more to the point, whose families are forced to live in their car or under a bridge, are prime targets for traffickers. Young panhandlers are kidnapped, forced into cars, taken across the country with no means of communication or way out. They become the victims of all manner of sexual perversion. Young girls are sold for drugs, other means of finances, not just in Africa, but right under our noses. With no visible means of shelter, they are out in the open and the pimps know where to look. The horrific fact is that the average age that a girl enters the sex trade in America is between 13 and 14 years old. These are our daughters, nieces, granddaughters who have lost their childhood to slavery, enduring beatings, abuse and rape. We should never be comfortable with that!
Governor Rick Perry said, “This modern day slave trade is an affront to modern human decency. It is the product of the worst of us.” Since this is an acknowledged problem national, state-wide and local, why do we not see an outcry among our legislature that could protect our youth and correct this dilemma?
So while we look for solutions to poverty in our own communities, let’s broaden our sites to those most vulnerable to modern-day slavery – the children of the homeless – save them!
Written by: Deanna Beauchamp