Sex Trafficking: An American Problem Too

Bridgette Carr reports for CNN:

“We did not have a right to choose where we lived … freedom of speech, or freedom of actions. The traffickers had keys to our apartment. They controlled all of our movement and travel. They watched us and listened when we called our parents. They didn’t let us make friends or tell anyone anything about ourselves. We couldn’t keep any of the money we earned. We couldn’t ask anyone for help.” — Lena

Lena was an athletic student from Eastern Europe yearning to visit the United States through a study-abroad program at her college. She had visions of learning English and returning home to share her experiences with her family.

But the human traffickers who ensnared her had a different vision for Lena, shipping her to America and exploiting her in the sex industry for profit. They met her at the airport with news that her study abroad placement had been changed. She was given new bus tickets and sent off to Detroit, Michigan. Once there they took her passport and her freedom.

After almost a year of enslavement, Lena risked her life to make a daring escape. She is smart, resilient and funny, and I have been honored to be her attorney through the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.

Unfortunately there are thousands of adults and children like Lena who have not been able to escape their traffickers. These victims, especially the children, are in the same position Lena was: They’re being exploited and can’t ask anyone for help.

The data on human trafficking is sparse, but what is known is terrifying. It’s already the second largest criminal industry in the world — behind only the trade in illegal drugs — and it’s growing fast. The global commercial sex trade exploits one million children annually. At least 100,000 and perhaps as many as 300,000 children in America are victims of sex trafficking each year…


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