There has been a lot of media buzz about the thousands of prostitutes, strippers and pole dancers streaming into the Dallas area for the Super Bowl weekend. But what rarely gets reported is the alarming fact that hiding behind the push-up bras, false eyelashes and stilettos are children, some as young as 12 years of age, who are victims of human sex trafficking.
Human trafficking is as much a part of Texas as cowboys and oil. The business flourishes because of the state’s geographic location, long stretches of interstate highways, international airports, numerous bus stations, the large shipping industry, and its shared border with Mexico. This border is North America’s number one supply site for young children used in sex and labor trafficking. In the last quarter of 2007, 30 percent of the calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline were out of Texas and 25 percent of all international victims certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were in Texas.
The problem doesn’t just affect children from outside U.S. borders. Domestic child sex trafficking is on the rise. According to National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children, an estimated one out of every three children that run away is lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home. Research indicates that one in five girls and one in ten boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood.
I know first-hand the pain of sexual exploitation. As a child, I was sexually abused for a year by a trusted summer camp counselor. I was molested and I was a victim of child pornography. No child ever completely recovers from this form of abuse.
I kept this awful secret for 32 years. Then in 1987, during my father’s second term as president, I finally spoke. I told the horrible truth to my father Ronald Reagan and Nancy, my mother Jane Wyman and my wife Colleen, and then I told the world in a book I penned called “On the Outside Looking In.” I was no longer fearful of how my experience would affect the image of one of America’s most beloved actors and presidents. I found purpose in the pain.