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3 Reasons Child Sex Trafficking is an American Problem

3 Reasons Child Sex Trafficking is an American Problem

1. Americans: The #1 Consumers of Child Porn

The internet has created a world for sex traffickers that enables them to bring their business to any screen across the world, regardless of their physical location. The internet is the number one platform for customers to buy and sell sex with children in the United States.

The word “teen” has been in the top ten searched words on PornHub for over five years. This is a big issue because child pornography is illegal.

According to the United States Department of Justice, “Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (persons less than 18 years old).” It is against federal law to produce, distribute, import, receive, or possess any image of child pornography.

Yet, it is still a horror that hundreds of thousands of American children face every year. It is a horror that millions of children worldwide face every year.

And unfortunately, Americans are fueling the business.

The U.S. is considered to be a “sending” country – meaning traveling child sex offenders seek out children to exploit, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the early days of O.U.R., Tim Ballard heard about a particular beach in Colombia. The word on the street was that if you sat on the beach long enough, child traffickers would approach you and offer to sell you children. He quickly learned the rumor was true. It worked especially well because he was American – child traffickers are used to selling children to visiting Americans.

To help deter this from happening, the U.S. has tried regulating the travel of child sex offenders. With the implementation of International Megan’s Law, the passports of those convicted of sex offenses involving a minor will be marked so that foreign governments will be aware of their arrival.

(Image source: NJ.com )

Although many Americans are fueling the fire, there are countless of Americans fighting to end child trafficking. When technology advances, so does the fight against child exploitation. Law enforcement agencies all over America are able to use technology to combat this issue everywhere.

By recognizing that this is a problem on our soil, we can join forces to spread awareness and fight against the exploitation of children together.

 

2. America is One of the Top Hosts of Child Porn Sites

America was estimated to host over 50% of commercialized (illegal) child pornography websites worldwide in 2010.

This number has shifted since then, according to the Internet Watch Foundation. North America now hosts around 37% of child sexual abuse content, and Europe hosts around 60%. This is a significant improvement, which can be attributed to the hard work of law enforcement in America to combat this issue. However, it is important to recognize that America is still in the number two spot.

Backpage and Craigslist are known for being hubs for child sex trafficking. Backpage is the subject of over 70 percent of the child sex trafficking tips received by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. These pages are heavily used during big events like the Super Bowl to coordinate the buying and selling of children. These sites are also a way for traffickers to lure teens, through fake offers such as modeling jobs.

3. Many Americans are in Denial That Sex Trafficking Happens Here

Child sex trafficking is generally overlooked by many in America. This needs to change, considering that an estimated 250,000 children are being trafficked here on American soil.

Why is it overlooked? Unfortunately, a lot of child pornography is traded under the radar on the dark web, where it stays undiscoverable to many who aren’t looking for it. But that does not mean that it doesn’t exist.

The internet has made commercial sex available to a wide range of people around the world, including the U.S.

According to a study done by the University of New England, 1 in 20 U.S. men have bought sex online. This ratio jumps to 1 in 5 men in the state of Texas.

The Internet Watch Foundation assesses one webpage every five minutes. Every nine minutes, a webpage shows the exploitation of a child.

1 in 3 runaways are approached by a trafficker within 24-48 hours of living on the street.

The American sex trafficking industry alone is estimated to be worth $3 billion per year. These statistics show that this problem cannot be ignored.

What now?

The good news is, you can have a voice in this fight. Everyone’s support is important to help fight against the horrific world of child sex trafficking. Educate yourself on the places, the signs, and how trafficking happens.

We have come a long way in spreading awareness of this issue. Instead of looking at how far we need to go, we can look at how far we have come. There are hundreds of organizations around the world fighting for these children and many continue to be rescued. Just this week, fifty six victims were rescued and over five hundred perpetrators were arrested in California in a statewide human trafficking sting.

We are grateful for our law enforcement here in the U.S., who work hard to eradicate trafficking in every state. We are grateful for our loyal supporters and donors who help fund rescue missions to save children all over the world.

Together, we can end human trafficking.

 

This is What Trafficking Looks Like in America

This is What Trafficking Looks Like in America

There is an idea out there that trafficking does not exist in America because we don’t see it or often meet survivors.

That is far from the truth.

Trafficking in America is too often overlooked. Although a lot of the trafficking trades have moved to online, it is not invisible. Below are some stories to illustrate what trafficking looks like in America and where it happens.

40-Year-Old Woman; Trafficked by Husband

 

This Utah woman had been married to her husband for nineteen years when he forced her into sex trafficking. They were in a low-income situation and one day he told her that she needed to sell herself on the streets in order to pay their rent.

He was both physically and verbally abusive. He locked her out of the house and said she wasn’t allowed to come back until she made enough rent money from selling herself for sex.

It broke her heart. She didn’t understand why her husband was telling her to do this. She was confused why this man who said he loved her would force her to sell herself on the streets. She was extremely hesitant.

When she had made enough money, she brought it back to him. He called her horrible names and told her to get back out there and make more. He said that she didn’t make enough.

One of traffickers’ main tactics is to convince their victims that they love them. This makes it a hard cycle to get out of, especially if there is nowhere else to go.

Mom Sells 13-Year-Old Daughter; Lives in One Million Dollar Home

This woman lived in a very wealthy community. She was sexually abused as a child and felt that it was a part of life. So, she sold her 13-year-old daughter for money.

When she was asked why she sold her child, she explained that because she was sexually abused as a child, she just has to be okay with it.

Mom Sells Three Teenage Daughters for $50; “Package Deal”

This woman put up an add on Craigslist to sell her three teenage daughters aged thirteen, fourteen, and sixteen. She charged fifty dollars for one hour. Three men would come to the house, pay her fifty dollars, and rape her daughters while she left for the hour. She would then return after the hour was over.

The three daughters’ performance in school dropped significantly. Their self-confidence dropped and significantly changed from before.

The sixteen-year-old attempted suicide multiple times and upon further investigation, authorities found out what was going on in the home and the three girls were rescued.

What now?

Although sex trafficking can involve family members exploiting children, there are many other ways it can happen. Those who run away can be picked up by traffickers within 24-48 hours of being on the streets. The internet has also become a space for children to be bought and sold. The U.S. is estimated to host 37% of child pornography sites, putting us in the number two spot in the world. In addition to online exploitation, and estimated 10,000 children are being smuggled across the border to be exploited each year.

O.U.R. is extremely grateful for the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who brave the rigors of battling human trafficking and child exploitation every day in America and all over the world.

Sex trafficking is happening in our own backyards, but we have the power to stop it. We cannot give up hope.In addition to supporting local law enforcement, there are many ways for you to raise your voice in the fight against trafficking.

Educate yourself on the places, the signs, and how trafficking happens.

Put the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (888-373-7888) in your phone. Visit their website and read the resources and studies available for each individual state.

Spread awareness of this issue in your community to protect the children in it. Start a YOURrescue campaign to educate your friends and family. Learn from what others have done.

As we join together in this fight, we can end human trafficking and rescue more children.


What can YOU Do?

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For further information on this subject, read 3 Tech Setting You Need to Protect Your Kids Online.

Technology settings to keep kids safe

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Trafficking Prevention: The Rescue With an Unlimited Number

Trafficking Prevention: The Rescue With an Unlimited Number

O.U.R. strongly believes in the efforts of trafficking prevention. It is the rescue that never needs to happen. It is saving children before they ever  know they need to be saved. Efforts of prevention and intervention are vital in the fight against trafficking.

The Johnson family puts much effort into empowering youth in South America! They have been working with a program that has opened doors for families in extreme poverty that are at high risk for being trafficked, as well as women with young children who are trying to leave working on the streets. In this program, women and girls learn basic education (math, science, grammar). They also learn valuable skills that help produce an income like sewing, cosmetology, Microsoft products, and even pharmaceutical skills! While receiving vocational training that will lead to a livable income, they are also receiving mentoring from loving, caring adults. Having meaningful relationships is vital in everyone’s life, and while these girls are receiving true love, they are also learning life skills that will create stronger families.

The Johnsons have recently started assisting in teaching Days for Girls and English classes! Mike Johnson noted the following after his experience teaching with the Days for Girls. He said, “The women there are all so wonderful and beautiful. They come from tough situations and backgrounds but they are all there because they want to be there and improve their lives.” During this time they are able to educate the girls on human trafficking and grooming behaviors that traffickers use. Sometimes these trainings are for teenagers that are at high risk for being deceived by traffickers pretending to want to be their ‘boyfriend’.  Other times it is young mothers who are being trained on how to keep their children safe while also learning a new skill.

The effort towards prevention is an act of rescuing girls that never knew they needed to be rescued. Education, supporting vocational training, and strengthening family units are all vital in prevention. Thank you for standing with us to not only rescue children being trafficked, but to put efforts into making sure they are never trafficked in the first place.

Sincerely,
Jessica Mass

O.U.R. Director of Aftercare


What can YOU Do?

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There are opportunities to volunteer with O.U.R. across the country. We have Area Teams of volunteers located in many cities in the U.S. To become an O.U.R. volunteer, visit our website ourrescue.org/jointhefight and click “Volunteer.”

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Overcoming the Red-Light Zone with Light and Hope

Overcoming the Red-Light Zone with Light and Hope

There is a road in Latin America lined with shacks as far as the eye can see. Girls as young as fourteen and women as old as sixty-five roam this road every day because it is all they know. It is one of the most dangerous Red-Light Zones in the world.

O.U.R. works with a group that does rescue and outreach in this zone, and that is how we met Allie. Allie grew up with her mom being sexually exploited. She would pray every day that her mom would be taken out of it.

After praying every day for ten years, she finally was liberated. And that changed Allie’s life.

The group that we work with to do outreach in this area invites people to a three-month program to learn business skills. At the end of the program, the graduates are offered a micro-finance gift to start their own business. Allie was around fifteen years old when her mom started to participate in this.

At first, she wanted to be a lawyer because she saw so much injustice growing up near the Red-Light Zone. However, when her mom was finally liberated after ten years of being exploited, Allie changed her mind. She decided that she wanted to be a Christian singer to praise God for the rest of her life. She prayed every day for those ten years for her mom to be liberated, and she felt her prayers were answered. Currently Allie runs a micro ministry of her own reaching out to youth in her local neighborhood as she felt God was calling her to do more with her life.

We recognize that not all stories end like this, and there are still a lot of people in captivity. That is why we fight. That is why we continue to spread awareness, rescue children, provide support to law enforcement, and support aftercare. Supporting Allie brings hope and light to an otherwise dark world, and we are hopeful that she will be able to influence others to fight this issue as well.

O.U.R. has been able to support thirty of these survivors in the twelve-week business program because of your generous donations. However, this reach is far beyond even just these thirty girls. Because of these opportunities, Allie and the many other children’s lives are forever impacted as they learn to use their talents and skills to make a positive impact on the world.


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Aftercare is one of the most important steps in our process. Learn more about O.U.R. Aftercare on our website.

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How Love Can Help Heal

How Love Can Help Heal

When Sam Malouf, his daughter, and Jerry Gowen recently joined the O.U.R. Aftercare team on a recent trip to the Caribbean, there was a new 13-year-old girl at an aftercare home that they had not met on previous trips. Aftercare homes sometimes act as temporary housing for survivors in between being rescued and being placed back with a relative, so there is often some turnover.

Sam Malouf is an O.U.R. supporter and owns the bedding company Malouf Sleep. Sam Malouf also brought his daughter on this trip. After introducing themselves to this new girl, they ended up sitting down and talking with her for over an hour and a half. They were able to connect in a very powerful way – simply by showing interest in her interests and likes.

Sam and his daughter were able to show this young girl love just by being interested in who she was and what she enjoyed doing.

After the O.U.R. team left the home, they received a message from the director of that aftercare home. She wanted to pass on her gratitude for Sam Malouf and how much he made an impact on that young girl. She was recently rescued from the border of a neighboring country by Child Protective Services because her father had beat her so severely that she could not stay in the house.

The director of the aftercare home told us that she was only going to be at that home for one week before she went to live with her aunt, but she loved talking to Sam. Having a strong male figure in her life who had no pre-determined motives and was genuinely interested in her as a person was a huge step in her personal healing process. The director thanked the O.U.R. team for bringing Sam along.

These small steps in the lives of survivors of abuse are great moments of hope and joy. We are grateful for Sam Malouf and his daughter for taking the time to befriend this young girl and help her feel loved and important.


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Where There is Great Love, Miracles Happen

Where There is Great Love, Miracles Happen

Four girls were rescued in the recent undercover operation in Haiti.

O.U.R. Aftercare Director, Jessica Mass, strongly believes that the first 72 hours after someone is rescued are extremely important for the survivors to start to feel safe and not receive additional trauma. Aftercare is always there at the operations to provide immediate victim advocacy to care for the girls rescued.

One of the key factors, when we are talking with victims that have experienced extreme trauma, is to be fully present with people in their pain. These are times when you can’t feel the pain someone is feeling inside, but you can help them to not feel alone.

After a couple of hours as Jessica was sitting with the girls, she asked what their dreams are. “What would you do if you could do anything?” she asked. With tears swelling, one of the girls held her hand out to Jessica. She showed Jessica her carefully painted and decorated nails and said, “If I could do anything, I would help other girls feel beautiful. I want to do people’s nails and eyebrows so they can feel the beauty that is in the inside of them.”

This hopeful young survivor had been through a lot of extreme trauma. People often ask how girls begin being trafficked and exploited. The answer is that they are often vulnerable due to poverty, lack of education, and the breakdown of the family. This particular girl was vulnerable due to all three of these categories.

Nearly 60% of the population live on less than $2 US dollars a day, which means that over six million people are living in poverty in Haiti. The young girl that Jessica was talking with lived in a poor area that was especially high-risk for trafficking and sexual exploitation. She had to stop attending school in fifth grade, which also made her more vulnerable in her area.

When she was 14 years old, the equivalent of an eighth grader, she was raped and subsequently got pregnant. Her parents then kicked her out of their house and shamed her for her pregnancy. Her trafficker picked her up and promised her a better life of care and love. However, that promise was quickly broken when he started selling her for sex soon after.

Jessica asked this brave survivor, “What gives you motivation and hope to keep going despite the extreme things you have gone through?”

Tears started pouring down the girl’s face. She looked up and said, “When I was a little girl I was introduced to God and I went to church. I haven’t been in a long time but I know that there is a God who loves me and I love him. While I haven’t been to church in a long time, I really hope to go back. His love for me keeps me motivated. I know that God sees me.”

The bravery and hope of this young survivor is beyond her years. She is currently safe in an aftercare transition home, where she and the other survivors from the rescue operation have access to full aftercare services that O.U.R. is supporting. Their traffickers are in jail, and these girls are now SAFE.


What can YOU Do?

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Aftercare is one of the most important steps in our process. Learn more about O.U.R. Aftercare on our website.

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O.U.R. Jump Team Pin

O.U.R. Jump Team Pin

Upon returning from their first rescue operation, O.U.R. Jump Team members earn a gold O.U.R. pin (click HERE for link to our online store.)

There are many people who support our jump team in spirit and support the fight in their hearts. This pin is now available to all O.U.R. supporters in honor of our Jump Team.

The Jump Team works with local authorities to perform undercover rescue operations. In this process, they do all they can to make sure that the children are protected and that the perpetrators are arrested. Going undercover is the most dangerous part of the process, but it is one well worth taking.

Since O.U.R. was founded in 2013, O.U.R. has helped rescue 990 victims and has assisted in the arrests of more than 443 traffickers. We are grateful for the sacrifices our team makes to ensure that these perpetrators are stopped.

The Jump Team risks their lives to save innocent children all over the world. Wearing this pin joins us together with them in the fight against trafficking.

 


What can YOU Do?

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DONATE TODAY

There are opportunities to volunteer with O.U.R. across the country. We have Area Teams of volunteers located in many cities in the U.S. To become an O.U.R. volunteer, visit our website ourrescue.org/jointhefight and click “Volunteer.”

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Searching for the One and the Impact Along the Way

Searching for the One and the Impact Along the Way

Many of you know the story of Gardy. He is the precious little boy O.U.R. continues to search for after he was kidnapped from church and then trafficked.

During our search for Gardy so many other children have been rescued. It is Gardy’s dad that talks about the strength that he has found due to the many other children that have been set free due to his son. I can not even begin to fathom the heart of one who goes through the pain of losing their own son and can still rejoice over the others that have been found.

In another country not too far away from the one we continue to look for Gardy, there is a beautiful young girl who is 13 years old; we will call her Sara. Sara is a girl we have worked with for a little over a year now. We first met her in an area that O.U.R. started to do prevention after identifying it as a high risk area for trafficking. One of the primary ways we do prevention in this area is by providing opportunities for education through supporting children to go to school and providing a teacher in the community two days a week. Sadly, a couple of months ago we received word that Sara had gone missing. There are rumors in the community that she has been trafficked and the trafficker had intentionally got her pregnant in order to put fear and shame in her to not go back to her village.

Our operations team has notified the human trafficking division in this country and they are actively searching for Sara. We do everything we can to fight for children to live in freedom and this 13-year-old is very close to our heart. During our recent aftercare mission we followed up with local law enforcement, but they still have not yet located her. They asked that if we find any additional information to notify them immediately. Our aftercare team has done in-home visits to her mother’s home and her father who lives about 30 minutes away from her mom. Neither of them had any additional information for us to provide for the law enforcement.

However, due to O.U.R.’s educational support we do know where Sara goes to school. Last week three members of the aftercare team went to Sara’s school. With the leadership of the school, we went classroom to classroom searching for Sara. It’s often said it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack once a child goes missing, but we can never let statistics stop us. Sara has come within the path of O.U.R. and we truly believe that once someone has come into our path they are family. We will search as if they were our child, sister, daughter, or friend.

The school reported they have not seen her in two weeks, but they thought it was just because of the severe rain in the area where she lives. Sadly, we have not been able to find her yet. However, we were able to talk to several of the staff about trafficking and the extreme vulnerability that many of the children in this area face. They were unaware of the high risk areas where some of the children come from and the signs to look for in case a child is being trafficked. The school is now putting extra measures in place to help keep their children safe, and they were able to open an additional case with child protective services for Sara. Not every story is perfect, and the fight against trafficking is not an easy battle. However, during this time that we are still looking for Sara, she has already had an impact on other children’s lives.

We love Sara, we know her well, and we ask that you would keep her in your hearts during this new year. Thank you for helping us continue to search for Sara and bring her to a safe aftercare home. Thank you for all you do to support girls and boys like Sara through rescues and aftercare. Many blessings to you and your family as you stand with us.

Sincerely,

Jessica Mass

Director of Aftercare

“I Feel Invincible”

“I Feel Invincible”

I feel invincible.

On a recent O.U.R. aftercare mission, this is what a young girl said to O.U.R. Aftercare Assistant Tyler Schwab and COO Jerry Gowen. She is from a high trafficking area in the Caribbean. After tracing steps and talking with traffickers and pimps, we found this certain community where a lot of young girls were being trafficked in and out of.

To help support the young girls in this area that are at high risk for being trafficked, O.U.R. works with local nonprofits to invest in their education. With access to school, tutors, and the opportunity to learn how to read and write, it is the hope that the girls are in school instead of being exploited.

The young girl that Tyler was able to visit this last trip has made amazing strides in her education. She previously had to skip school for three years because her family couldn’t afford to send her to school and she had to help take care of her grandma who was in a wheelchair. With the three combined factors of poverty, lack of education, and living in a high trafficking area, this young girl was at high risk.

Thanks to the opportunities for education, she has learned to read and she is now at the top of her class. She is even helping to teach others in her class! “That, to me, is so powerful,” Tyler said, “These resources are going to empower a child’s life and she is so proud to share with us her reading abilities.”

With her success in school, she feels invincible. Using resources to invest in these girls’ education strengthens them and helps prevent trafficking. With your generosity and support, we can help survivors and high-risk children all over the world feel invincible.


What can YOU Do?

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O.U.R. and Adobe bring you Free At Last, an annual fundraising and service event in recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. There are two ways to get involved: 1. Donate Items such as: chips, granola bars, toothpaste/toothbrushes, pens, pencils, etc. 2. Attend the Free at Last event (free of charge) in Utah. Follow THIS LINK for donation and event details!

 

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Cookies and Spare Change

Cookies and Spare Change

The Andersen family and their community recently raised over $8,500 for O.U.R. by collecting spare change! Friends and family banded together by bringing change jars to work, having lemonade stands, and adding any dollar bills in that they could contribute. Brooke Andersen shared her experience with us and how they came up with idea.

“We had no idea how rampant child sex trafficking was until Spring of 2017. When we did, it broke our hearts. We knew we had to do something, but these precious children were hidden from us, and we had no idea how to help. We did a search to find an organization that DID know how, and we found O.U.R. It was meant to be! We were preparing to make a one-time donation when we had a thought—Why not involve our family and friends in raising money for them too?

Lots of people would like to help, but money is always so tight these days—how could we do this without asking for immediate donations? That’s how our campaign “Cookies and Spare Change” was born.  We put out a request on Facebook to anyone who would want to help these children, and would commit to saving their spare change from that Spring until Thanksgiving Day, 2017.  We would bring them homemade cookies (to say thank you), and we would give them their spare change jars for saving. In this way, people had something special done for them with the cookies, and they were ready and excited to save their spare change for O.U.R.!  Saving spare change was an easy way to save money without even noticing any funds being set aside. Spare change jars always add up quickly and seem to be worth more than you’d think!

Then, it was just a waiting game. The months rolled along, and everyone’s jars filled up. It’s amazing how 7 or so months of coin saving can really add up! Some children sold treats in front of their home to raise money, others took their jars to work, and some didn’t do spare change so they made a straight one-time donation; most just plugged away like champions at saving their change every day—even putting a dollar bill in their jar from time to time! Every person involved was a hero as they saved, and it was so fun for everyone to know they were working with others to make a big donation they could never do on their own!

It all added up, and by the time we reached the end, we had raised over $8,590.51. Individual donations and jar amounts ranged all over the place, and each one was precious to us. We are so thankful to each person who donated, and to the O.U.R. organization where we know these funds will be used in the best way possible.

**Sidenote: When it was donation time, we did not collect everyone’s cookies and spare change jars. We made the process much easier on everyone! We asked that they count up their change (so they knew how much they had saved), and put the money into their own bank account. Then, they would go to our O.U.R. campaign donation site, and make a donation with their credit card.  This way they had an immediate tax donation receipt, and the extra money they had put in their account was saved ‘painlessly.’”

This is a great and simple way to get everyone involved in the fight against trafficking. The power of this one community will help save children all over the world and support them in their healing process. We are grateful for everyone involved, and for the Andersen family for coming up with a creative way to unify their community.


What can YOU Do?

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Donate $5 per month and become an Abolitionist today. We can win this fight together!

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