Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D.
Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D.
As we celebrate our festival of freedom this year, surrounded by family and friends, we are reminded that there are upwards of 27 million human beings still enslaved in our world today, in 2014. Even here in America, the sad truth is that the “girl trade” is rapidly supplanting the “drug trade” by criminals who have learned that the punishments for human trafficking are less severe than those for drug trafficking.
Born in America, hidden in plain sight, many of today’s slaves are young girls. They are the lost girls, standing around bus stops, hanging out by runaway youth shelters, at the Motel 8 or the Marriott, at McDonalds or the clubs, or advertised online. Drug routes have been repurposed to sell girls, along I-95, and up and down the I-5 corridor. The emergence of the Internet also allows the sale of a girl to be executed with ease, discretion, and convenience for the buyer. And unlike selling a drug, the girl is “reusable.”
According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American children at risk of being exploited and trafficked for sex. 40% of all human trafficking cases opened for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010 were for the sexual trafficking of a child. And while the term trafficking may conjure images of desperate illegal immigrants being forced into prostitution by human smugglers, 83% of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases in this country were American citizens.
The majority of these children being sold for sex are girls between the ages of 12 and 14. They are girls abducted or lured by traffickers and then routinely raped, beaten into submission, and sometimes even branded. The ugly truth is that it is less risky and more profitable to sell a girl than crack cocaine or meth. The U.S. government spends 300 times more money each year to fight drug trafficking than it does to fight human trafficking.
Traffickers are rarely arrested and prosecuted, which explains the growing demand for very young girls— at the click of a mouse, a “John” can purchase a girl online on legitimate websites like Backpage.com, with minimal fear of punishment.
Many of these girls, who are bought and sold for sex, come out of our broken foster care system. Of the trafficking victims in Alameda County, California, 55% were from foster youth group homes. In New York, 85% of trafficking victims had prior child welfare involvement. And in Florida, the head of the state’s trafficking task force estimates that 70% of victims are foster youth.
Passover is the perfect time for us to begin to pay more attention to this on-going social cancer in our midst and to speak out whenever we can to raise the consciousness of our elected officials and insist that in 2014, slavery in America is unconscionable. At KI we are organizing a “Human Trafficking Task Force” to address this issue, so anyone interested in participating should let us know.
(Check out www.rebreuben.com , www.becomingjewishbook.com and www.interfaithrabbi.com for more commentaries, articles and books by Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben).
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