The FBI reports on its website that "not only is human sex trafficking slavery but it is big business. It is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world."
I noted in Part 1 of my series on human trafficking that ABC News reported in July on a National Geographic undercover investigation about sexual slavery, saying that "it's actually 10 times more likely for an American girl to be trafficked inside the U.S." than it is for a foreigner. According to the FBI, ABC reported, "they range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11."
Each year, roughly 300,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry, compared with 14,500 to 17,500 girls smuggled in from other countries, according to U.S. Department of State statistics.
What lures these kids into sexual slavery? Sure, there are the darker elements of abduction and smuggling. But there are also many of the same enticements as there are with legitimate organizations and careers: security, self-worth, belonging, fame, fortune, etc.
We often think of the sex trade as being run by nothing but controlling hoodlums who second as drug lords -- and many are -- but the truth is that sexual slavery has turned into a billion-dollar industry run by many "average Americans" who are businesspeople.
The National Geographic investigation highlighted how it's not just career criminals in red-light districts who are luring down-and-out minors to sexual slavery. There is a growing swell of U.S. traffickers who are wealthy and "upstanding citizens" in suburban and rural America.
How do these "upstanding citizens" entice their victims? By offering them love and protection, a little adventure and even a career jump into stardom. And many use any reputable bait -- on and off the Internet -- to lure prospective prey into their nets, including careers as models, masseuses and actors. Once their victims are snared by charm and emotional tactics, traffickers then crank up their coercion and control with money, drugs, bondage and blackmail.
The Christian Post interviewed Linda Smith, founder and president of Shared Hope International, and reported: "The way that traffickers often gain their victims, Smith explained, is to first gain the friendship of their target. Sometimes they will pretend to be their boyfriend. After capturing them, they will videotape them getting raped. Then, they may threaten to post the video on the internet, or may threaten to harm their family if they do not cooperate."