KEVIN BALES, PROFESSOR & CO-AUTHOR OF THE GLOBAL SLAVERY INDEX
There are an estimated 40.3 million slaves in the world today generating annual profits of $150 billion, according to a report released by the International Labor Organization in 2017. Roughly 4.8 million are forced into commercial sex, and it is estimated that about 20% of these victims are children. That means there are close to 1 million child victims of the commercial sexual exploitation globally, 99% of whom are girls. The world’s poorest are the most vulnerable, but there is virtually no one safe from becoming a trafficking victim. The societal disease is nuanced, sophisticated, and growing.
When the topic of sex trafficking comes up, it conjures the image of girls in third world countries wearing chains. While the horror of that image may be a reality in other countries, it distracts from the very real problem of minor sex trafficking in the United States which looks very different and hides in plain sight. According to a report released by Thorn, the most commonly reported age of entry into prostitution is 15 years old, but 1 in 6 victims are under the age of 12 when they are first sexually exploited.Across the board, the most vulnerable youth are children in the foster system and runaways. Roughly 47,000 U.S. children go missing annually, and it’s estimated that 1 out of 5 missing kids is forced into the world of trafficking. In total, experts guess that about 100,000 U.S. born children are trafficked for sex annually. To put that in perspective, in Texas there are fewer than 40 cities with total population that large.
Unfortunately, demand fuels supply, just like any other industry. The internet has driven much of the growth in DMST, with 71% of sex trafficking cases coming from backpage sites and online advertising. It’s estimated that 1 in 20 adult men on metropolitan areas has solicited sex from digital advertising. Minor sex trafficking is modern, common, and active in all major U.S. cities.
Source: The Gospel Coalition
The primary focus of Arcadia is minor sex trafficking in Texas, so we want to highlight how impactful this problem is on the Lone Star State. Texas is the #2 state in the country in regards to the commercialization of sexual exploitation. In studies used by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, Houston is regarded as the #2 city in the nation for trafficking. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where Arcadia is located sites at the dark intersection of two major sex trafficking corridors: The Texas Triangle (DFW, Houston, San Antonio) and the I-20 Corridor (starting in DFW and stretching East). Still, the state of Texas has less than 30 beds available for minors recovered from this world. Thirty.
Task forces of all kinds across Texas are inundated with calls and cases, typically more than they can handle. A rough average would be 2000 calls & 425 cases per year. Only halfway through 2017, however, Texas had already reached over 1100 calls and over 300 cases. The numbers tend to grow every year. Unfortunately, police departments in our largest cities can rarely spare more than a few officers dedicated to this epidemic. For the officers able to investigate cases, it can be remarkably difficult. In DFW alone we’ve seen sex trafficking rings run out of schools, churches, foster homes, and more. When we say this epidemic is hiding in plain sight, we absolutely mean it.