By John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead
“Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”—John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Even in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no stopping this year’s Super Bowl LV showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the winner of the Vince Lombardi Trophy is up for grabs, we already know the biggest losers: the hundreds of young girls and boys—some as young as 9 years old—who will be bought and sold for sex, as many as 20 times per day, during the course of the big game.
“The Super Bowl is kind of deemed as the weekend to have sex with minors,” said Cammy Bowker, founder of Global Education Philanthropist.
It’s common to refer to this evil practice, which has become the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns as child sex trafficking, but what we’re really talking about is rape.
Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.
It is estimated that the number of children who are at risk of who are at risk of being bought and sold for sex would fill 1300 school buses.
Yet as shocking as those numbers may be, this COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in even greater numbers of children being preyed upon by child sex traffickers.
According to a recent study on human trafficking during the pandemic by Thomson-Reuters and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, school closures due to the pandemic, which have forced children out-of-school and subjected them to more online exposure, have made them especially vulnerable to sexual predators.
The internet, with its web cams and chat rooms—a necessity for virtual classrooms—has become the primary means of pimps targeting young children. “One in five kids online are sexually propositioned through gaming platforms and other social media. And those, non-contact oriented forums of sexual exploitation are increasing,” said researcher Brian Ulicny, who co-wrote the Thomson-Reuters study.
It’s not just young girls who are vulnerable to these predators, either.
According to a USA Today investigative report, “boys make up about 36% of children caught up in the U.S. sex industry (about 60% are female and less than 5% are transgender males and females).”
Consider this: every two minutes, a child is bought and sold for sex.
In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.
On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period.
It is estimated that at least 100,000 to 500,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances
Child rape has become Big Business in America.
This is not a problem found only in big cities.
It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.
As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”
No doubt about it: this is a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young children for sex.
Every year, the ages of the girls and boys being bought and sold get younger and younger.
The average age of those being trafficked is 13. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out, “Let’s think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.”
“They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “They’re little girls.”
This is America’s dirty little secret.
But what or who is driving this evil appetite for young flesh? Who buys a child for sex?
Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life. “They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.
Catholic and Protestant churches have been particularly singled out in recent years for harboring these sexual predators. Twenty years after the clergy sex abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church, hundreds of sexual predators—priests, deacons, monks and lay people—continue to be given work assignments in proximity to children. In many cases, the abuse continues unabated.
Although much less publicized, the sex crimes within the Protestant Church have been no less egregious. For instance, an expose into the Southern Baptist Church leaders by the Houston Chronicle documents over 700 child sex victims “who were molested, sent explicit photos or texts, exposed to pornography, photographed nude, or repeatedly raped by youth pastors. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms.”
And then you have national sporting events such as the Super Bowl, where sex traffickers have been caught selling minors, some as young as 9 years old. Yet even if the Super Bowl is not exactly a “windfall” for sex traffickers as some claim, it remains a lucrative source of income for the child sex trafficking industry and a draw for those who are willing to pay to rape young children.
According to criminal investigator Marc Chadderdon, these “buyers”—the so-called “ordinary” men who drive the demand for sex with children—represent a cross-section of American society: every age, every race, every socio-economic background, cops, teachers, corrections workers, pastors, etc.
And then there are the extra-ordinary men, such as Jeffrey Epstein, the hedge fund billionaire / convicted serial pedophile who was arrested on charges of molesting, raping and sex trafficking dozens of young girls, only to die under highly unusual circumstances.
It is believed that Epstein operated his own personal sex trafficking ring not only for his personal pleasure but also for the pleasure of his friends and business associates. According to The Washington Post, “several of the young women…say they were offered to the rich and famous as sex partners at Epstein’s parties.” At various times, Epstein ferried his friends about on his private plane, nicknamed the “Lolita Express.”
Men like Epstein and his cronies, who belong to a powerful, wealthy, elite segment of society that operates according to their own rules, skate free of accountability by taking advantage of a criminal justice system that panders to the powerful, the wealthy and the elite.
Still, where did this appetite for young girls come from?
Look around you.
Young girls have been sexualized for years now in music videos, on billboards, in television ads, and in clothing stores. Marketers have created a demand for young flesh and a ready supply of over-sexualized children.
“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives,” writes Jessica Bennett for Newsweek. “Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.”
This is what Bennett refers to as the “pornification of a generation.”
Indeed as I documented in an earlier column, the culture is grooming these young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators.
Social media makes it all too easy. As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on … social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.
Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. Many start out as runaways or throwaways, only to be snatched up by pimps or larger sex rings. Others, persuaded to meet up with a stranger after interacting online through one of the many social networking sites, find themselves quickly initiated into their new lives as sex slaves.
Debbie, a straight-A student who belonged to a close-knit Air Force family living in Phoenix, Ariz., is an example of this trading of flesh. Debbie was 15 when she was snatched from her driveway by an acquaintance-friend. Forced into a car, Debbie was bound and taken to an unknown location, held at gunpoint and raped by multiple men. She was then crammed into a small dog kennel and forced to eat dog biscuits. Debbie’s captors advertised her services on Craigslist. Those who responded were often married with children, and the money that Debbie “earned” for sex was given to her kidnappers. The gang raping continued. After searching the apartment where Debbie was held captive, police finally found Debbie stuffed in a drawer under a bed. Her harrowing ordeal lasted for 40 days.
While Debbie was fortunate enough to be rescued, others are not so lucky.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).
With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.
For those trafficked, it’s a nightmare from beginning to end.
Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed.
Immigration and customs enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., report that when it comes to sex, the appetites of many Americans have now changed. What was once considered abnormal is now the norm. These agents are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. As one agent noted, “We’ve become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit.”
This trend is reflected by the treatment many of the girls receive at the hands of the drug traffickers and the men who purchase them. A common thread woven through most survivors’ experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men.
As David McSwane recounts in a chilling piece for the Herald-Tribune: “In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,’ as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel’s eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”
One particular sex trafficking ring catered specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it’s a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.
This growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open.
That so many children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.
Unfortunately, while the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs and crime, which I describe in greater detail in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, it has done little to protect our children from sex predators.
Like so many of the evils in our midst, sex trafficking (and the sexualization of young people) is a cultural disease that is rooted in the American police state’s heart of darkness. It speaks to a sordid, far-reaching corruption that stretches from the highest seats of power (governmental and corporate) down to the most hidden corners and relies on our silence and our complicity to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.