Running Away Can Be Dangerous
RUNNING AWAY CAN BE DANGEROUS
This is the second of a two-part series on what can happen to children who runaway. To read the first article, please click here.
Predators in the sex trafficking industry use this level of desperation to manipulate children, often bribing them with small rewards such as food, to groom them for exploitation. Before the child knows it, they have become the “property” of vicious and unscrupulous sex traffickers and are fully immersed in prostitution without any way to get out of the situation. To compound matters; after a child victim has become reliant on the sex trafficker for all their basic needs they are less likely to accept outside help for fear their connection to basic needs may be cut off by the person exploiting them.
While the research noted above is alarming, the personal stories of these child victims’ are even more so. The Polly Klaas Foundation (PKF) would like to remind our community, our nation and the world that every child matters. While runaways can be considered “lost” or “forgotten” children because they took the action to leave their home; PKF is committed to helping to recover these children and providing them with resources to return home when appropriate, or guide them to resources who can help these most vulnerable children.
What is needed most right now is funding so that more effective and compassionate programs can be delivered to these endangered boys and girls.
Adding to the complexity of the situation is that law enforcement has traditionally treated these young victims of sex trafficking as criminals, charging them with prostitution when they are caught. This approach fails to recognize these children are actually abuse victims who are being expertly manipulated and forced to provide sexual services. It also makes recovering from life on the streets more difficult because now they have a criminal record.
What is Being Done to Help These Victims of Sex Trafficking?
There is a small, but significant, amount of good news on this subject. Over the last few years there has been a growing movement in the legal system to classify these children as victims. With that re-classification comes an emerging expertise in working with these children to help them free themselves from their abusive lives. These changes in approach can change everything for these young victims of sexual assault and trafficking.
One outstanding example has come from the Dallas Police Department with a program that’s been developed over the last few years by Sgt Byron A Fassett. This program identifies high risk trafficking victims and provides a specialized shelter and counseling services. They foster a relationship of trust with these young victims by focusing on providing for the child’s needs over time, rather than trying to immediately get information that might convict the child’s sex trafficker, which a child may be reluctant to do. Their emerging success in making survivors out of victims makes them a model for law enforcement throughout the country and the world. The Polly Klaas Foundation commends their work in this field.
Additionally, State’s Attorneys General and the FBI are beginning to speak out on this problem of runaway children being kidnapped into prostitution. There are a number of organizations that help runaways/thrownaways, some of which specialize in counseling girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking including GEMS (http://www.gems-girls.org) and Polaris Project http://www.polarisproject.org
A Fast Growing Criminal Industry
Sexual exploitation of children is one of the fastest growing criminal industries. With the expanded use of technologies, someone can go on the internet and order sex with a minor as easily as ordering pizza. For sex traffickers in an online business, there is even less risk of arrest for anyone as the child victims do not have to stand around on street corners to attract business.
Sex trafficking is organized crime. While some sex traffickers are solo entrepreneurs, trafficking in entire cities and regions may be organized, as well as nationally and across international borders. “These kids are commodities for sale or trade. There is a network. They are trafficked, moved from city to city for the financial gain of those who use, abuse and control them,” said Ernie Allen, formerly with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
He also noted, “These kids are victims. This is 21st Century slavery. They lack the ability to walk away. The pimps who use and discard them are the criminals as are those who patronize them. These kids need to be rescued, not arrested.’
Why is This Important to You?
One of the Polly Klaas Foundation’s core values is that we cherish children and protect them every way we can. That means every child.
We’re providing this information so you understand the life changing hazards that can occur for a child who runs away. If this should happen to your child, you, one of your friends or anyone you know - please take action: make your first call to the police, and your second call to the Polly Klaas Foundation. We are here to help you 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. A professional and compassionate person will always answer our phones and provide you or any caller with the resources you need to find a path home. Our 24/7 HOTLINE is 800-585-4357.
If you value child safety please post a link to this story on Facebook and Twitter so others may know the dangers children can face, and perhaps be more compassionate towards children who run away. You can be part helping your community meet its responsibility to staying informed and keeping children safe.
About Polly Klaas® Foundation
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E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ~ Phone: (707) 769-1334 ~ 24 hour hotline: (800) 587-4357
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