Three Hundred Thousand US Kids May Be Trafficked Every Year
"I think most of the time people think s** trafficking is something that happens in another country".
"But, actually the United States is one of the top three nations where s** trafficking occurs".
said Sula Skiles, a former victim of s** trafficking who now lives in Jefferson City.
What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, and victims are usually sexually exploited by force, coercion or fraud.
According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, many people are trapped by traffickers with the promise of a good job in another country, a false marriage proposal, being sold into the s** trade by others or being kidnapped.
Every two minutes, a child is forced into s** trafficking.
There are girls as young as 5 and 6 years old in the U.S. that are forced to do sexual acts for economic gain by their pimp.
U.S. Department of Justice
The average age a girl enters the commercial s** trade is 12-14 years old. For boys, it’s even younger, just 11-13 years old.
4,500,000 are being trafficked for forced labor through sexual exploitation every year; this is in addition to the millions already held captive by trafficking.
ILO 2012 – International Labor Organization
Each year, as many as 100,000-300,000 US kids are at risk of being trafficked for commercial s** in the United States.
U.S. Department of Justice
And according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF.
The number of victims of human trafficking worldwide is 12.3 million
Are s** Slaves Smuggled Into The US?
About 14,500 to 17,500 girls from other countries are smuggled into the U.S. every year,and are exploited in sexual slavery.
The U.S. Department of Justice says that the average age of females, both domestic and international, that begin prostitution in the U.S. is between 12 and 14 years-of-age.
And the department adds that kids older than twelve are the leading targets for sexual exploitation by organized crime units.
Boys and trans-gender youth begin prostituting between the ages of 11 and 13 on average.
Why Isn’t More Being Done?
Malika Saada Saar, the president of The Rebecca Project for Justice explained that,
"There is a cyber slave market that is being built up by Craigslist and other websites such as dating, hooking up sites, and on-line escort services, and most who buy and sell these girls are never arrested or jailed!".
And the FBI say,
"Today, the business of human s** trafficking is much more organized and violent. These women and young girls, and boys, are sold to traffickers, locked up in rooms or brothels for weeks or months, drugged, terrorized and raped repeatedly. These continual abuses make it easier for the traffickers to control their victims. The captives are so afraid and intimidated that they rarely speak out against their traffickers, even when faced with an opportunity to escape".
Is The FBI Highly Motivated?
In short, "Yes!".
In July 2013 the FBI carried out raids in 76 US cities, arrested over 150 pimps and rescued 105 children from their sexual and abusive rings, the youngest of whom was only nine years old.
"Detroit saw the most pimps arrested, while the largest numbers of children rescued were in San Francisco, Detroit, Milwaukee, Denver and New Orleans".
2,700 children have been rescued by the FBI since 2003 under its, "Innocence Lost" initiative, and after partnering with the nonprofit group the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
And roughly 1,350 convictions of s** traders have been made by the FBI with the worst offenders getting as many as ten life sentences.
Who Is Sula Skiles?
Nine years ago, 20-year-old Sula Skiles was a Lincoln University student with a promising future in modeling, but little did she know she would soon become a victim of human trafficking.
Skiles signed with a modeling agency in California, where she attended several events and parties with other models.
And it was there she met the billionaire that promised her a modeling job overseas.
"I was this young, ambitious, naive model given this opportunity to go to another country for this modeling job and everything checked out that it would be legit. I looked on-line, researched everything, I was just really excited but I was only given a one-way ticket, and that should have been a red flag for me".
Says Skiles, who is now a motivational speaker, minister, and s** trafficking abolitionist.
Skiles Was Bought As A Christmas Gift
She had no idea that for the next three weeks, she would be subjected to human trafficking.
The billionaire that she thought was offering her a modeling job actually purchased her as a gift for himself and his girlfriend’s pleasure.
She then became an object and a prisoner at the billionaire’s estate overseas.
How Did She Escape?
"Throughout the time of being there and meeting this girlfriend and all of that, I was able to convince her that I would stay with her and that’s how I was eventually able to get a ticket to go home",
"If I would have known that something like this existed, I absolutely know within my heart that I would have made different decisions. Awareness is so powerful. As traumatic and as overwhelming as the topic of s** trafficking is, it’s important to know how it affects us here even as Americans, it’s not just overseas".
A Happy Ending For Skiles
Though the majority of victims don’t find a happy ending, Skiles was a survivor, and has made peace with her experience.
Her story is one of freedom, and she is now happily married with a daughter and a baby boy on the way.