Celebrating Freedom

Happy Independence Day to all my USAmerican readers!

It’s been a while since my last post on human trafficking, so what better day to rectify that than today, the national holiday celebrating freedom? Ok, sure, most of us just use today as an excuse to blow stuff up. Doesn’t mean we can’t try to redeem ourselves a little, right?

English: Photograph of an FBI agent leading aw...
English: Photograph of an FBI agent leading away an adult suspect arrested in the “Operation Cross Country II”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most exciting developments in the fight against modern-day slavery came on June 25 when the story of Operation Cross Country broke. The nationwide FBI sting netted two results worth celebrating: 104 pimps arrested and 79 children rescued from sex slavery. Though my friends at CAASE rightly point out that both of those stories I linked to (MSNBC and Chicago Tribune/Reuters) have a language problem: There is no such thing as a child prostitute or a teen prostitute.

There are only prostituted children, victims of sex trafficking. Legally that’s the case here in Illinois. But even in states whose laws haven’t yet caught up with reality, it’s still clear morally. Consider this from the Tribune article:

The teenagers, aged from 13 to 17 years old, were being held in custody until they could be placed with child welfare organizations. They were all U.S. citizens and included 77 girls and two boys, the FBI said. One of the minors recovered in the sweep reported being involved in prostitution from the age of 11, according to Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

Or this from the MSNBC article:

The average age of a child targeted for prostitution in the United States is between 11 and 14 years old, FBI assistant director Kevin L. Perkins told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

If an adult were found having sex with an 11 or 13 year old, would you arrest the child?? Of course not! Because we know that, legally and morally, children can’t consent to sex. So why in the hell would we treat that same child differently just because some pimp is making money off of her?? Clearly our country is still in need of a lot of education about this.

“We asked men in our survey, ‘What would you tell men under 18?'” Durchslag said. “They said, ‘That (buying sex) will change forever how you relate to women. You will never look at a woman as a full human being again.'”

My town of Naperville make for a good example. It seems Naperville was involved in Operation Cross Country, but here it only resulted in the arrest of four prostituted women. No children rescued, no pimps arrested. I hope that means there just weren’t any children here to find. But it seems highly unlikely that there were no pimps involved with those four women. Why were there no arrests of pimps here? Why were there no johns, no customers arrested here? I wish I knew, but nobody seems to be saying.

How about a little good news? Some education is happening. And it is working. I was thrilled a couple of weeks ago when the Tribune’s Barbara Brotman wrote a column on CAASE’s prevention curriculum. Last year I participated in a training Caleb led on this curriculum. He is an engaging teacher and it is terrific material. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to share this curriculum in schools out here in the western suburbs, but I still hope to do so. But I have taught it to the teenage boys at my church. Why start that young?

The program arose from its 2008 study of men who had purchased sex in Chicago. More than half of them had started doing so between the ages of 18 and 23.

“So if most of them were purchasing sex in their college years, we couldn’t do a prevention curriculum in college; it would be too late,” Durchslag said. “We had to reach them in high school.”

I don’t have data for the impact on my church kids, but in the schools where CAASE has taught, boys are changing their attitudes.

Probst hears from teachers. After he spoke at one school, a social worker there told him she overheard a boy saying he was planning to wear a “wife-beater” to an upcoming social engagement.

Another boy stopped him. “You mean a tank top, man,” he said.

“It makes you think about those young girls and how bad they have it,” Alejandro Barragan, one of the Rauner Prep students, said after the last session. “I don’t even like joking around anymore. I don’t even think it’s funny.”

How about one more piece of good news? Nestlé did something right.

“Our investigation of Nestlé’s cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody’s problem and therefore nobody’s responsibility,” said Fair Labor Association President Auret van Heerden.

It means Nestlé is the first chocolate-maker to comprehensively map its cocoa supply chain – and can work on identifying problems areas, training and educating workers and taking action against child labor violations.

Read the rest on CNN’s excellent Freedom Project blog.

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