Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More must be done to battle sex trafficking

By The Daily News

At a time when their biggest worries should be their grade-point average or if they made the cut for their school’s athletic team, thousands of American children are victims of one of the most horrific crimes against humanity – modern-day slave trading for commercialized sex.

There are no studies that show exact numbers of child victims of sex trafficking, but the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children conservatively estimates that about 100,000 American children are victims of sex trafficking annually in this country. Catholic Charities in Louisville estimates that number at closer to 300,000. The numbers do not include children trafficked for labor.

What’s shocking is that Interstate 65, which cuts a north-south swath through Warren and other surrounding counties, is a major transport corridor for human traffickers.

In December, after a yearlong analysis of state laws conducted by the American Center for Law & Justice and Shared Hope International, Kentucky received a grade of “D” on a scale of “A” to “F,” with “A” being the highest, on the Protected Innocence Initiative report card.

The study found that Kentucky takes a tough stance on human traffickers, but the penalties levied against people who pay for sex acts with minors are low, and “significant gaps” exist in laws that provide protective provisions for victims.

After an investigation started at the state level by the Kentucky State Police, a federal grand jury in Bowling Green last month indicted a man on two counts of sex trafficking of children. The indictment alleges that the man pimped out two juveniles as part of a multicounty sex-for-hire ring operating in Taylor, Green, Adair and Barren counties. One of the girls is listed in court documents as 15 years old, not yet old enough to legally drive a car.

Federal authorities deported one of the men who they believe to have paid for sex acts in this case, said Stephanie Collins, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Kentucky.
Other alleged johns in this case are undocumented residents scattered in a four-county area, she said.
No one else has been arrested.

“Our main concern was the sex trafficking,” Collins said.

Law enforcement efforts to prosecute the man accused of trafficking the minors should be applauded. However, authorities should also exhaust all possible resources to bring to justice the men accused of paying for sex acts with minors. In one weekend, court documents show that the 15-year-old was paid to have sex with four different men. Each man paid $40.

It’s simply not enough to charge one person in this case when it is alleged that many more adults participated.

At both the state and federal levels, we need to send a strong message to any adult having sexual contact with a minor that law enforcement agents will stop at nothing to put you behind bars.

If you are paying for sex in Kentucky, what you are doing is illegal. If you are paying for sex with a child, it is not only illegal but you are also participating in modern-day slave trading, which is morally reprehensible.

Daily News