While accused sex trafficker Jeff Epstein is on a suicide watch in a jail cell, his despicable sex trafficking scandal has created an unprecedented opportunity to shift the public perspective about sex trafficking.
Although legislation at the state and federal level defines sex trafficking as a crime and specifies penalties, there is little research that shows how the public perceives sex trafficking, especially as it relates to prostitution and the victims involved, many of whom includes minor aged girls. Up until the arrest of Epstein and R. Kelly recently, the mindset of the public tended to perceive and label the victims of sex trafficking as “juvenile prostitutes” and “criminals.”
Nothing can be further than the truth.
People don’t know that across America young girls are falling victim to sex slavery, and are being targeted regardless of race, gender, zip code or socio-economic status. It’s an issue that is all around us and hidden in plain sight. Three hundred thousand American children are taken into sex slavery each year and the average age of entry is 12-14 years of age. Slowly, child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is shifting from “it’s only an international problem” to “it’s happening here in our own backyards.” People are finally realizing that across America young girls are falling victim to sex slavery, and are being targeted regardless of race, gender, zip code or socio-economic status. It’s an issue that is all around us and hidden in plain sight.
We also need to keep in mind the broader social environment and the fact that – like Epstein and Kelly - there are many high profile issues that people are outraged about today (e.g. guns, environment, abortion), and that outrage should be channeled into finding long term solutions to rehabilitate the victims so they can return to normal, productive lives.
Many anti-sex trafficking organizations in America are determined to put an end to sex slavery, including our national organization, Selah Freedom, whose mission is to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited through four strong programs: Advocacy & Awareness, Prevention, Outreach and Residential.
By confronting the issue of sex trafficking, we now have a model for how to effectively bring solutions to survivors of sex trafficking & exploitation. What began as the grassroots initiative of women from across the country to be a voice for the voiceless, has quickly transformed into a thriving organization with four foundational programs: Advocacy & Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, and Residential. Selah Freedom closely partners with law enforcement, legislators, and influential leaders to not only shed light on the staggering statistics, but we are working together to change those statistics by changing lives.
A dramatic shift in public perception about sex trafficking will enable us to end this growing epidemic in America. This new awareness and education are the only way we will be able to help identify sex trafficking victims, prevent sex trafficking from occurring, and create stronger policies to help prosecute sex traffickers and sex consumers.