This year the US Department of State gave Thailand a ranking of “Second Tier Watch list” in its annual Trafficking in Persons global report, a half step below Laos, and a half step above Burma (which was placed in the third, and worst, tier). But while South East Asia does indeed have a major human trafficking problem to deal with, are various western nations and humanitarian agencies justified in focusing on South East Asia, when sex trafficking also occurs within their own borders?
Yesterday, Brooklyn courts indicted four people of forcing two minors, aged 12 and 13, into prostitution in New York City. The two young victims in question had been drawn into their captors’ webs with promises of gifts, money, attention, and care, and then later forced to dance in clubs and perform sex acts with strangers. Furthermore, according to an attorney from the Brooklyn District sex trafficking unit, these incidents are becoming alarmingly common in Brooklyn– since the formation of the unit a year and a half ago, 31 individuals have been detained on charges of sex trafficking in the area.
Also in the news, America’s Penn State Sex Scandal, that horrendous tale of sexual abuse, pedophilia, and cover-ups, has allegedly been further complicated by rumors that Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved in trafficking his under-aged victims, in addition to assaulting them.
Earning less notoriety in the media has been the growing problem of sex trafficking in Nebraska. Allegedly, traffickers prey on newly arrived immigrants to the US, trafficking them up and down I-80 in Nebraska for several months at a time. Newly immigrated young women and children are particularly vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers, according to a US immigration attorney, as they are easily intimidated and isolated, and do not know the protections they are afforded under US law.
Human sex trafficking in the US has even been linked to a high-profile political death. In 2009, former Georgia senator Nancy Shaefer was found dead in her home, in what was ruled a “murder-suicide” with her husband. Critics have cited an alternative theory that Shaefer, who was a prominent child rights activist and critic of Child Protective Services (CPS), was planning to go public with a documentary exposing a high level pedophilia trafficking ring in Atlanta, which suffers one of the worst rates of human trafficking in the US.
Land of the free, indeed. Perhaps the US department of State should spend less time publishing lengthy reports on the human sex trafficking problems occurring in developing countries, and more time curbing the significant human sex trafficking problem that is festering in its own backyard.