I first want to thank you so much for taking the time to read about an extremely devastating issue. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this has been one of the hardest and most terrifying thing for me to write and share so publicly, which is why I want to stress more than anything the purpose for this blog – to raise awareness on the INSANE facts about child sexual abuse in America, how it connects with human trafficking, and to encourage victims to not feel shame until no child has to endure this pain.
Those who know me know my biggest passion is, and always will be, ending human trafficking. Since I first became serious about this issue I have constantly been asked “what makes you so passionate about human trafficking?” I truly never know how to answer this because it seems so easy to find passion when the estimations of living slaves ranges as far as nearly 60 million with less than 1% rescued; when sex slaves are as young as 3 and are forced to preform between 10 and 60 times a day; when this is extremely prominent in every country (yes even America, yes all 50 states, yes even Fayetteville); and when this is, and has been, the fastest growing criminal industry with little hope of slowing down.
Around this exact time 4 years ago when I was a sophomore in high school, Christine Caine spoke at my church and changed my view of the world. Raising awareness about human trafficking was not her main objective, but she briefly spoke about her anti-trafficking organization The A21 Campaign and some of her experiences. Before that, I had never once heard of human trafficking. I had no idea there were even slaves today, let alone more than ever before in history, and I was completely devastated with the facts about the sex trafficking side. While I listened to her stories I became overwhelmed with a mix of emotions. I was frustrated that millions of people are willing to own and treat people as slaves, that millions of others make up the customers wanting to buy time with and use these sex slaves, both adult and children. I was confused on why we are taught that slavery has been abolished when there are more today than ever, and why this crime isn’t seen as a bigger deal to the public. I was overwhelmed with grief for these victims, especially those of child sex slavery.
When I was around 5 I began being sexually abused by a family friend and it ended a few years later. I did not tell anyone until I was 16, not because I thought I would not be believed, but because of not wanting to be looked at as a victim, and a combination of wishing to completely leave it in my past and thinking if I didn’t admit it then it wouldn’t bother me. I did not see anything positive out of sharing if I just forgot about it and thought this didn’t happen to many others.
4 years ago as I listened to Christine Caine, I knew wanted to spend the rest of my life fighting modern-day slavery which began a new battle of selfish emotions. I was scared that if I followed this passion I would have to share my experience. I told myself that there was no way I could make an impact on arguably the greatest injustice in history, and that if anyone would make a difference it would be those already trying.
“Because I cannot do everything, I’m going to end up doing nothing instead of the one thing that activates something. So often we don’t do the one thing simply because we can’t do everything.” – Christine Caine
Since hearing that, anti-human trafficking efforts began to consume my free time, and I have no doubt that my career and the rest of my life will revolve around ending slavery until it is truly abolished. During my senior year of high school I was fortunate enough to connect with a new organization, Operation Underground Railroad, that had just been created by Tim Ballard. Ballard had just ended his career with the U.S. Government as an undercover Homeland Security agent for crimes against children to build this organization because he was overwhelmed with the amount of times he would investigate a sex ring, only to have to let the case go due to government policy, having to forget about so many children of all ages being sold many times a day for sexual favors. While creating this organization, Ballard shared his vision with Matt Osborne who decided to follow and quit his undercover career with the CIA, where he specialized on issues relating to terrorism and regularly provided secrets and analysis to U.S. Presidents & other officials, to become the Senior Vice President for Rescue and Rehabilitation for Operation Underground Railroad. When I started an annual color run through my high school senior year, I decided to donate all of what was raised to Operation Underground Railroad and Matt Osborne was extremely involved and supportive from the planning to the day of the run. We have continued close contact, even as Operation Underground Railroad has become unimaginably successful in the international community during its short 3 years. Until recently I have tended to focus and study more about international cases in lesser developed areas where it’s common for families to sell their kids rather than American cases, even though I have known how big of a presence it has here. One of the most important facts to realize with human trafficking is how there is not one victim type, and no one is exempt from the possibility of becoming a slave today – victims in every country are made up of all ages, gender, background, religion, ethnicity, etc. but there are different trends that can vary within each country. As a whole, people that are considered to be “vulnerable” are said to have a higher chance of becoming a victim, which includes minority groups, displaced people/refugees, socially marginalized groups, history of abuse or neglect, etc. As I’ve researched what these vulnerabilities look like in America I have learned that those who had been sexually abused as a child are top targets to become a victim, and I have learned that child sexual abuse in America is insanely misunderstood, which is fueled by its lack of awareness. Here are some of the shocking facts:
- Only about 30% of victims will ever admit to being sexually abused as a child during any point in their life, and of those that do majority never inform law enforcement
- Less than 10% of child sexual abusers will ever come in contact with the justice system; the average number of victims a male offender will have is over 120 and the average a women will have is over 50 before being reported
- Even though child cases are way less reported than adult cases, around 70% of REPORTED sexual assault cases are done to children
- 1 in 10 children are victims
- This year there will be around 400,000 babies born in the U.S. who are going to become victims of child sexual abuse
- 90% of children know and trust their abuser, they were not a stranger.
The great majority of American human trafficking victims that have been rescued have admitted to being sexually abused before they were 11, and as I’ve learned more about the connections between these two horrible issues, it’s become obvious that neither of them can be ended without extreme awareness and support of victims to come forward. I know that this is easier said than done, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit I have talked myself in and out of sharing this for over a month now. I was incredibly nervous about the responses that would come from this article, not only towards me but mainly towards the spread of awareness for both human trafficking and child sexual abuse as well as the responses from other victims. But my hesitations and worries have been completely over shadowed because of the immense support and encouragement from Zeta, and from the relationships I have been blessed with at the University of Arkansas. Zeta has been one of my greatest sources of support from day 1 of me starting my anti-human trafficking student organization, Stand for the 13th, freshman year and now with another injustice that most would rather ignore. It’s easy to forget about child sexual abuse because the true impact of the number of victims is not seen and it’s not an issue many want to talk about, but this is why it has grown to this unbelievable scale. My hope in sharing my past is to show how anyone can be a victim, and the unfortunate truth that you most likely know multiple victims without realizing. The greatest efforts in advancing human rights has come from the public, and can be as simple as spreading awareness and facts. There is nothing more important than people. I challenge you to stop allowing these crimes to grow by simply sharing this and/or becoming involved in your own way.