Most people think of child prostitution as something that happens in other, faraway countries -- but it's a huge problem right here in the U.S., and the reality is uglier and more terrifying than you can even imagine. Thank god the FBI is taking action: In a recent nationwide sweep targeting organized crime-run child prostitution rings, FBI agents along with state and local police officials rescued 79 minors (mostly girls around the ages of 11 to 13) and arrested 104 pimps -- over the course of three days. The girls were terrified, held against their will. Most of them started out as runaways who were lured into prostitution with promises of cellphones, food, and a place to stay. The mobsters apparently used social media to find the girls, an approach they refer to as a "business strategy."
It's enough to make a person physically ill, imagining what these poor vulnerable kids have been through. At least they're finally out of harm's way ... for now.
But what happens next? After they're released from police custody, most of these kids don't have anywhere to go (they ended up becoming prostitutes because they ran away from home, remember?). So what are they supposed to do? Go back to the bridge they were living under? Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the FBI says there's a desperate need for an increase in social services. "These kids are really damaged," he says. "They require a specialized kind of help."
"After an earlier operation, I was called by a prosecutor who said, 'I know I'm not supposed to lock her up but my domestic violence shelters won't take her, the runaway shelters won't take her so I have no choice but to put her in secure detention for her own protection.' But our hope is that America is waking up to that."
That's my hope, too. And I also hope that these 79 kids somehow find a way to heal and feel safe again. I hope they somehow find a way to piece their lives back together. I really, really hope they find caring adults who will guide them on the right path.
Did you know child prostitution rings were such a big problem here in the U.S.?
Image via KOMUNews/Flickr