Today, Ashton Kutcher testified in front of a Congressional committee urging the Senators he talked to to help fund software that can track sex traffickers on the Dark Web. It’s a must-watch.
The Texas Tribune featured an exposé today about one young sex slave and her experience. It is absolutely heartbreaking. A snippet:
No one wanted Lena in jail — not the Houston police who arrested her, not the district attorney who pursued the case. In their eyes, she was not a prostitute; she was a child who had been sexually exploited and needed protection and care.
Lena and teenage victims like her end up in jail for one simple reason: There’s nowhere else for them to go.
Texas has just one facility devoted to child sex-trafficking victims, called Freedom Place. It can only afford to treat 20 girls at any given time, and it won’t accept kids who’ve been picked up by police in the middle of the night.
Other residential treatment centers in the state provide specialized care for foster kids who may have behavioral and emotional problems. But they aren’t equipped to treat the type of trauma sex-trafficking victims have been through. They’re also hesitant to take chronic runaways; Lena had fled such facilities several times before.
After reading this, I talked to a Houston friend who has been involved in rescuing girls from the sex trade. She said that a new home had recently been donated and that now there are eight safe-houses in the Houston area for these girls, but the need is dire. Texas, due to the size and proximity to the Southern border deals with an outsized human trafficking problem. The thought that there’s high demand here is disgusting to contemplate.
Kutcher rightly talks about the demand and supply problem specifically mentioning the failure of the foster system. The statistics of foster care to the prison system are grim:
Mark Courtney is with Partners for Our Children, a policy center at the University of Washington. Over the past eight years, Courtney and colleagues from Chapin Hall have been following the progress of more than 600 former foster kids.
“Many of them are faring poorly,” says Courtney. “Less than half were employed at 23, 24. They’re much less likely to have finished high school, less likely to be enrolled in college or have a college degree.”
In fact, by age 24, only 6 percent have two- or four-year degrees. More than two-thirds of the young women have children. Nearly 60 percent of the males have been convicted of a crime. Almost a quarter were homeless at some point after leaving foster care.
The problem is massive. Kutcher urged the Senators to help these suffering young people by ensuring their right to pursue happiness. It was a moving plea.