Fourteen-year-old Cara and her 15-year-old cousin, Stacy (not their real names) walked out of their homes in Toledo, Ohio on a rainy May day in 2005 to get milkshakes. A few blocks away, a couple driving a Lincoln Continental pulled alongside the cousins and asked if they wanted a lift. Believing the man’s claim to be a schoolmate’s father, the girls stepped into the car — and entered a nightmare world of sexual slavery.
The couple drove the girls to a house and locked them in. As their families frantically searched for them, the teens were sold over and over again at area hotels. Ten days into their captivity the girls were taken to a truck stop near Ann Arbor, Michigan, where police officers, acting on a prostitution tip, discovered Stacy and one of her captors in a truck. Because of her youth, police took Stacy into custody, and later rescued Cara.
We’re used to hearing about sexual slavery in other countries, like Thailand and India. But these were homegrown, corn-fed, All-American girls being raped by All-American men. There’s no need to fly overseas on sex tourism junkets anymore: Girls and boys as young as 12 are available right here in the USA — the more modest estimates
running at around 100,000 of them. Some, like Cara and Stacy
, are kidnapped into the brutal world of sex slavery. Others — runaways and girls exploited by older “boyfriends” — are seduced into it. Some victims unknowingly encounter pimps online, and when they meet these new “friends” at malls and parks, they’re drugged and then kidnapped. Pimps often move their human cargo across the country, making it difficult for girls to contact their families.
Former congresswoman Linda Smith, founder of Shared Hope International, an organization that rescues and assists women and girls forced into prostitution worldwide, says a pimp can easily make over $600,000 a year selling underage girls, making the peddling of human flesh more profitable than selling drugs. Living conditions are about what you’d expect for slaves: Girls are chained up in basements, or locked into closets. Those who try to escape are beaten, raped, and tortured.
Who buys children? Truckers, who seek out “Lot Lizards,” as they’re called, at truck stops. Executives who visit Atlanta or Las Vegas for conventions. Political activists who travel to Washington for meetings.
Shared Hope has created a DVD (the video contains some graphic content) outlining the extent of domestic minor sex trafficking. Visit their website and watch “Jessica” describe how she fell into prostitution at the age of 12, selling herself for a place to sleep at night. Or listen in on a conversations between a pimp and a man he believes wants to purchase a young girl — a man who is secretly recording their negotiations:
Pimp: “What type of girl do you want? Black, white, or what?
Buyer: “How many young ones do you have?”
Pimp: “Two black, two white.”
Buyer: “And how old are they?”
Pimp: “They’re between 14 and seventeen.”
Buyer: “What color is the 14-year-old?”
Pimp: “She’s white.”
Buyer: “Okay, white is good.”
Pimp: “If you pay the price, you can get what you want.”