Examiner Staff Writer 1/25/09
More than 1,000 mostly young women in the United States were forced into sexual slavery last year, an alarming new Justice Department report has found.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics analyzed thousands of cases of alleged human trafficking. It found that the sex trade accounted for more than three out of every four human trafficking cases tracked by the Justice Department.
Anytime anyone is forced into prostitution, they are considered “trafficked,” according to the Justice Department. Children 17 or under who are in prostitution are considered trafficked whether they were coerced or not.
According to the report, about a quarter of the nation’s sex slaves were under 17; two-fifths were between 18 and 24.
Hispanic women and girls were most likely to be victims of the human traffickers. They made up about two-fifths of sexual slaves and more than half of trafficked laborers.
The Justice Department also found that U.S. citizens make up the majority of victims and perpetrators in human trafficking. Nearly two-thirds of sex slaves were U.S. citizens. Nearly three-quarters of suspected sex traffickers were U.S. citizens, the report found.
Andrea Powell, co-founder of FAIR Fund, a D.C.-based anti-trafficking group, said trafficking is a major regional problem.
“D.C. is a hot spot for labor trafficking as well as sex trafficking,” Powell told The Examiner. “Foreign nationals are brought into the area to work as nannies, house domestics and even on construction sites. Sex trafficking affects both foreign and national victims.”
About 40 trafficking victims are rescued in the D.C. area every month, Powell said.
Hoping to get a handle on the problem, D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-at large, introduced a bill earlier this month that broadens the definition of trafficking and includes labor trafficking as an offense.
“Trafficking is a much more pervasive problem than most people realize,” Mendelson said. “And there’s no justification for trafficking — it’s human slavery.”
The Justice Department report is online at ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs.