During a presidential campaign soured by sexual misconduct allegations, the FBI reminds us just how bad sexual abuse can get.
A coordinated international crackdown on child sex trafficking rescued 82 children, who were provided social services, and arrested 239 suspected pimps and fellow reprobates in the United States, according to the FBI. Five boys were among the victims and the average age was just under 16. Foster children are particularly vulnerable.
The four-day, mid-October assault, called Operation Cross Country X for the 10th iteration of the campaign, included law enforcement action by local authorities and officials in Canada, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, where 25 children, including a 2-year-old girl, were rescued. The first operation was in 2008. Sometimes there is more than one operation a year.
“Child sex trafficking is a global problem and we must throw every resource we can at combating it,” John Clark, president and chief executive of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said at a San Diego news conference last week.
The crackdown demonstrates that prostitution is more insidious and oppressive than images of street hookers and high-priced call girls indicate. Children are forced into prostitution, sometimes by parents. The FBI reported these tragedies:FBI agents in Milwaukee found two sisters, 16 and 17 years old, allegedly being pimped out by their mother, who also rented their brother’s room to a registered sex offender. Detroit-area law enforcement officials recovered a 17-year-old for the second time in two years. She led them to another girl. Both were trafficked by “the same female suspect. The two girls lived at home with one of their mothers and the female suspect.” Atlanta authorities arrested a suspected pimp and prostitute on charges of murder, child trafficking and procuring of a minor for prostitution, among other charges. Along with two other suspects, they allegedly forced two girls, 14 and 15 years old, into prostitution and provided them with drugs. “The 14-year-old was later found dead of an overdose.” Thai police arrested an American, a registered sex offender who “is alleged to have coerced five juvenile Filipino females, ages 14 to 16, to take illicit photos of themselves and send them to him via the Internet.” Filipino officials arrested five adults and recovered two boys, 5 and 11, and a 2-year-old girl. The adults allegedly “ran a web-streaming service for individuals who would pay for access to live-streaming sexual abuse, as well as access to the children for the purpose of illegal sexual acts.”
Some folks “don’t want to believe children are being sold for sex. Not in this country,” Clark said, but the operation “provides irrefutable evidence that they are.”
The “common denominator” among the children, FBI Director James B. Comey told reporters, is “someone overbearing the will of a vulnerable young person and convincing them that this is what they must do to survive and there’s no way out. That’s what we mean by these children feel trapped in darkness … Our message is there is a way out.”
The FBI provided a video of an anonymous girl describing how she was tricked into prostitution by a pimp who told her that was the way to a modeling career. “I really thought this was a real legit thing,” she said. She got none of the money from “this dirty game,” but was beaten and feared for her life.
Cross Country “aims to shine a spotlight into the darkest corners of our society that seeks to prey on the most vulnerable of our population,” Comey said during the media event at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in San Diego.
One problem for law enforcement is the mobility of pimps and victims. They “often travel throughout the nation to engage in prostitution and do not necessarily reside in the area where they are located by authorities,” according to the FBI in Detroit. National and international operations such as Cross Country allow local, national and international law enforcement officials to cast a wide net at the same time.
In the United States, 400 law enforcement organizations participated in the operation, including 55 FBI field offices and 74 child exploitation task forces.
The anonymous young lady had words of encouragement for those still trapped: “If you’re a victim and you went through this, there is justice for you … I can breathe and say can finally put him (the pimp) behind me.”
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