Operation Cross Country VII, that's what the FBI is calling its nationwide child prostitution sting this past weekend. The agency reports that 105 victims were rescued along with the capture of 159 pimps in 76 cities across the United States. Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said “Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America. This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere, and the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”By: Rayana Godfrey"Nationally, the average age at which girls first become exploited through prostitution is 12–14 years old."
Out of the many disheartening statistics, this one stuck out the most to me. I have two beautiful little cousins who will turn 12 years old this year. Instead of them entering the safe and innocent pre-teen years, they are now entering a war zone. Who will fight for them when they are too young and too small to fight for themselves? How am I supposed to protect them from being yet another statistic? When I'm not there to hold their hands and lead them away from a strange man who only wants to hurt them, then what?
Too many times I've seen the fragile shells of grown women standing on hopeless corners, knowing where they are, but still lost. And who was there to save them when they were little girls being hollowed out, when their innocence, childhood, joy, laughter -- when their everything was taken from them--where were their saviors? I'm not only standing up for my little cousins. I want my voice to speak for every victim and survivor of commercial sexual exploitation.
But I can't do it alone. This is a community effort. Let's come together not only to save, but to prevent. Start a community bus or an afterschool program, so that young women don't have to walk to and from school alone. Talk to young men. Let them know there's nothing glorious or glamorous about pimp culture. Let them know that they are also part of the solution. We can't just sit around doing nothing and expect everything to change. We have to do something.
For more Youth Radio coverage about child sex trafficking, check out Trafficked, the Peabody Award winning series tells the stories of Darlene and Brittney, who became teenagers in Oakland, Calif. around the time the FBI named their city one of the country's hotspots for child prostitution.
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