An estimated 300,000 new girls enter the commercial sex industry each year. The Department of Justice estimates that the most frequent age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the United States is 12-14 years old. A demographic study of sex trafficking in the United States has never been done, so no exact figures are known, but, according to the FBI, for arrests under the age of 18, Black children make up 55 % of all prostitution-related arrests in the U.S. – more than any other racial group. Girls of color are suffering disproportionately at the hands of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).
Only ¼ of girls involved in the commercial sex industry will have completed high school or a GED, meaning that 75% of them are lacking in the bare minimum of education. Lack of education equals lack of options. With only 49% of Black students graduating from high school, our youth are operating at a deficit on options. That shortage on options combined with the hyper-sexualization of the culture at large, topped off with the objectification of women that has become inherent in that hyper-sexualization produces an environment primed and ready to take on commercial sexual exploitation.
Twenty-five percent of the girls who end up in the commercial sex industry grew up in a household without a mother, and 59% of them are growing up without fathers. The fact that more than half of girls who end up turning to lives of prostitution have grown up without fathers, suggests a need for male attention and acceptance,. Additionally, the fact that more than ¾ of the girls who end up selling themselves grow up missing one of their parents, is a sign that we need to rally behind our children as a communityand support our single-parent families, remembering the notion that "it takes a village to raise a child."
Women and girls make up 70 to 90 percent of prostitution-related arrests whilemen who solicit or purchase sex acts only make up 10 to 30 percent of the prostitution-related arrests. Too often girls under the age of 18, who are legally incapable of consenting to sex, are charged with prostitution and jailed. It is unacceptable for girls to be arrested for crimes they are legally incapable of committing. We must fight for more stringent CSEC laws, and demand that the men who are creating the demand for these services be held accountable on a more consistent basis.
There are a number of things that can be done to rid ourselves of this sex trafficking problem. We need to teach our girls to value themselves, and create a culture that supports that value In addition, we need to teach our boys that women are not trading cards to be bought, bartered and sold, because it is the boys will later create the demand that generates the supply of girls for sale.
Facts taken from:
- United States Department of Justice
- Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS)
- Publications by Donna M. Hughes. Fact Sheets and Research Reports: Trafficking, Slavery, and Sexual Exploitation.