By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON D.C., United States – Human trafficking is a booming business in the United States. Particularly popular is the sexual exploitation of trafficking victims, many of which are young boys and girls. These child prostitutes are often lured in by false promises and then forced into a life as a “sex slave.” Although cities across the U.S. are hubs for child prostitution, Washington D.C. has one of the highest rates of sex trafficking in the nation.
According to Examiner.com, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001 estimated that “300,000 runaway and throwaway youths under 18 have been sexually exploited.” ABC’s Good Morning America reported that in 2007 the U.S. Department of Justice had expanded that estimate to “between 100,000 and 3 million.”
Recently, CNN investigated and reported on the sex slave ring in D.C. During the investigation, CNN’s Barbara Starr interviewed Tina Frundt, a former trafficking victim turned activist who works at a non-profit organization for victims of sex trafficking called Courtney’s House. Frundt revealed to Starr that the average age of young girls being trafficked is between 11 and 14 years, and for boys it is between six and nine years old.
Frundt further revealed that at night the streets of D.C. are traffic controlled: the trafficker makes all the money. The women and children live as slaves, being beaten and forced to work the streets every night.
Frundt’s interview with CNN brings the reality of the sex slave trade to the forefront. At the close of the report, she offers that “if President Obama had to walk out of his door, his front door, at two-three in the morning – he would go two blocks away and see traffickers forcing women and girls out on the street every night here in the United States.”
CNN also interviewed Bradley Myles, the Executive Director and CEO of the Polaris Project, an organization aimed at combating human trafficking and slavery, to discuss public unawareness. Myles told Starr that most people who walk the streets of D.C. on a daily basis do not realize that at four and five in the morning those same street corners are used for prostitution.
Those who are aware of the trafficking and sexual exploitation in D.C. are extremely concerned. Amanda Kloer, an Editor at Change.org, reported that “all this wealth, political power, and slavery happens within five square blocks of one another, in what may become the human trafficking capital of America.”
Kloer, who works in D.C., is extremely disturbed that from her own office window she can see “one of the most notorious corners for prostitution in the city.”
Despite its continued prevalence, there have been some efforts by the federal government to crackdown on sex trafficking. In 2000, Congress passed anti-trafficking laws, which were reauthorized in 2006. Both the Human Trafficking Task Force and the U.S. Justice Department’s Innocence Lost initiative, separate efforts that target violent and predatory pimps, have made use of the laws to impose stiffer penalties on those convicted.
Yet, cracking down in Washington D.C. has proved to be a challenge. One reason may be because it is a small region where different legal jurisdictions intersect. Maryland and Virginia abide by their respective state laws, while a mixture of both local and federal laws govern D.C.
Human trafficking is also a very lucrative business, which makes it extremely difficult for police to shut it down. As CNN reported, “the sex trade alone is worth millions of dollars every year and the buyers keep on coming.”
For more information, please see:
CNN – Sex slaves in nation’s capital – June 24, 2011
Change.org – Human Trafficking Booming in Washington D.C. – June 28, 2010
The Washington Post – Activists Work to End Human Trafficking in D.C. – October 8, 2009
Examiner.com – Washington DC a sexual playground for pimps and johns: Exposing child prostitution rings in DC – March 18, 2009
ABC News – Teen Sex Slave Trade Hits Home – January 30, 2007
The Washington Post – Area Juvenile Sex Rings Targeted Using Anti-Trafficking Laws – March 6, 2006