As we improve our border security and pay increasingly more attention to who enters this country, we have become more aware of our place in the world of international sex trafficking. International sex trafficking is about children and women from so far away and for the most part our children are safe. The men and boys and others involved in trafficking are not one of us and our laws protect us.  Even if these international criminal are bringing their crimes into our communities. Even if our children, teens, and neighbors are witnesses to these horrible crimes.

Some of these crimes are happening right here. But what if they are happening here. A recently news item described a massage parlor in town all around and in Boston. Feds, State Seek Arrests in Sex Slavery Operations: “On Thursday, investigators were in Malden, Revere, Quincy, ­Kingston, Wellesley, and ­Manchester, N.H., said a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.”  Did you know that children who are immigrants or caught at the border without parents often must fight their deportation back to the parents who failed to protect them without legal representation? Moreover, most of the efforts to help some of these children escape violence is done by volunteers supported by nonprofit organizations.

The reality is that sex trafficking is a constant in our lives and a threat to lots of children in this country. Michael Delaney, the Attorney General for New Hampshire, stated that approximately 200,000 nationwide are trapped into prostitution by violence and drugs. The average age at which children are approached by criminals is 12. New Hampshire has put together groups of law enforcement professionals, activists, emergency responders, and lawmakers to better understand the scope of the problem as well as improve attention to victims. Currently, victims of sex trafficking in this country are treated as criminals. Of course, we have a very long way to go.  The National Geographic did a documentary on the “sex industry.” The really interesting thing is that several people commented at the site that the women in the story were not victims. Many said the women were responsible for their plight. You can follow this link to see learn about the documentary. You may want to glance at the comments to get a glimpse of some of the challenges to making this change. The comments leave me with the following question: how does blaming the women and men (boys) who work as escorts and sex workers solve the problem? How is it that drug addiction is a devastating disease until it happens to a young woman or teenage girl? If you speak with victims of domestic violence, you learn that too often they are not protected. Abused children are on the street. Who supplies destitute teens with drugs? They are not buying them.

Protecting children goes beyond our own front doors. Keeping the risk of your child or someone in your community witnessing or suffering from violence requires us to be active and attentive to laws and policies. It is a shame that is took over two hundred years for prostitution to be recognized for what it is: sex trafficking. Let’s hope that thinking spreads. Let’s hope that the madness of seeing boys and girls who are bought and sold for pleasure and money is finally understood as a horrible crime against vulnerable children and adults.