A new bill introduced in Congress this week aims to fight child sex trafficking in the United States, a problem that is often overlooked, say the bill's authors.
The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2010 was introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking.
A press release Thursday explained that the bill is a response to a 2009 report conducted by Shared Hope International which details commercial sexual exploitation of children in America. Experts estimate that at least 100,000 American minors are victims of child sex trafficking within U.S. borders each year.
“Human trafficking is a worldwide problem and the United States is no exception,” said Rep. Smith, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee. “Traffickers claim new victims in our country every day, destroying childhoods and damaging lives.”
“Too many think that sex trafficking is only a problem in foreign countries. But here in the U.S., an estimated 100,000 underage girls-- most of them American citizens-- are exploited through commercial sex each year,” Rep. Maloney said.
“Yet, nationwide there are only 50 beds to address the needs of those 100,000 victims,” she continued. “This is simply unacceptable. We have a moral obligation to help; these are America’s daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and nieces.”
The proposed bill would provide $45 million to rescue and care for victims, prosecute perpetrators and promote educational prevention programs. It would also require timely and accurate reporting of missing children, said the press release.
In the last decade, Rep. Smith has authored three laws aimed at fighting human trafficking. These laws have focused on crime prevention, prosecution and assistance for foreign victims. However, specialized care services are often unavailable for domestic minors. The proposed bill would offer shelter, daily necessities, social services and counseling for domestic minor victims.
“Our new legislation builds on current services available for trafficking victims but specifically targets assistance to U.S. child trafficking victims - many of whom are runaways and have been forcibly addicted to drugs by traffickers,” Smith said.
“Through the assistance for specialized shelters and services in this bill, communities in the U.S. will be better able to offer more teenage victims a place to be safe and heal, rather than return to the streets only to be re-trafficked.”