Children and sex: prostitution, rescues, statistics, money and the FBI

Teenager said to be vulnerable sitting on a bench

Press Release, 8 November 2010: Over the past 72 hours, the FBI, its local and state law enforcement partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children concluded Operation Cross Country V, a three-day national enforcement action as part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative. The operation included enforcement actions in 40 cities across 34 FBI divisions around the country and led to the recovery of 69 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Additionally, nearly 885 others, including 99 pimps, were arrested on state and local charges.

There is a very long history of alarms about children and their sexual activities, and numerous researchers have had insightful things to say about the contemporary fear of childrenandsex, which is not my area of specialisation. But.

It turns out that the US-government-funded Federal Bureau of Investigation has a human-trafficking programme. Well, they would, of course, and, in fact, given the framework of catching perpetrators of border-crossing crimes they make more sense as criminal-hunters than local or state police.

We’re working hard to stop human trafficking—not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists.

I actually prefer this sort of clarity to the hypocrisy of so many Rescue Industry projects: Here, we know where we are. According to the general description, sex-related trafficking is not the FBI’s only interest. But they have a sub-project on ‘missing children’ called Innocence Lost, where the sex link is overt, their achievements since 2003 described as working

to rescue more than 1,200 children. Investigations have successfully led to the conviction of over 600 pimps, madams, and their associates who exploit children through prostitution. These convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-year-to-life sentences and the seizure of real property, vehicles, and monetary assets.

I find that last line disturbing – bragging about how long the sentences are as well as the stuff taken from those involved, but those are the kind of indicators police use to show they are doing something – rescue being, after all, a pretty vague concept (and they know it).

But Innocence Lost turns out to be more than an FBI project; it is a National Initiative (this link takes you to a site on Missing and Exploited Children), composed of no fewer than

37 dedicated task forces and working groups throughout the United States involving federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies working in tandem with U.S. Attorney’s Offices.

Their fear is the growing problem of domestic child sex slavery in the form of child prostitution in the United States.

I would like to see evidence that the number of children taking money for sex is growing, since research has for a long time addressed young people who leave home and then survive by selling sex. Calling it child sex slavery is exciting, but the issue is the same. Leaving home is not always a bad thing, anyway.

But the question has to be: The 37 dedicated task forces and working groups get $26.1 million to do this work. If they have rescued 1200 children since 2003, each rescued child costs more than $20 000.

IF there is an immense and growing number of enslaved children worth investing huge amounts of money in, then some effort should be made to figure out how to find and save more of them. What is the money being spent on?

NCMEC has trained more than 1,000 members of law enforcement on the issue of child victims of prostitution. These specialized courses, developed and conducted in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have trained multi-disciplinary teams, with membership drawn from state, local, and federal law-enforcement agencies and local social-service providers from cities all over the country.

All that training and so few children rescued?

– Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist

16 thoughts on “Children and sex: prostitution, rescues, statistics, money and the FBI

  1. Maxine Doogan

    The twenty g’s would be better off being given directly to the kids and their parents instead of proliferating the prison industrial complex.
    Also, everybody goes to jail in these raids, even the kids.

  2. E Scheel

    While there are some organized rings that target girls in urban areas (not just homeless youth), the reality is that most of these children selling themselves are homeless because they are runaways, been pushed out of the home by their parents, or the entire family is poor and on the margins and the child is trying to contribute. I would much rather the money be set up to have appropriate places (not group homes) that these youth can live with alternatives to selling themselves for sex. But I also have a strong distaste for those who profit off the misery of others (pimps, law enforcement…). Until the whole of society does something about poverty and child abuse, we will continue to be putting children and others in these situations. I’m not opposed to genuine efforts to help these children, but those are few and far between.

  3. Dave

    The kids might have left home because of their parents.

    But, as we all know, it doesn’t matter how many are rescued. The rule is: If it saves only one child, it will all be worth it.

    In any case, the way I see it, rescuing children is nothing more than a facade for the real work of the task force (and the groups that support it) which is to eradicate prostitution. They don’t need to rescue a lot of children (assuming there are that many to rescue to begin with) to create the illusion that it all about children.

    The task force arrested 885 people. Pardon my skepticism, but I seriously doubt that all those people were involved in trafficking 69 children. It would be nice to see a follow up on how many of those 885 are actually prosecuted and convicted for child sex trafficking. I doubt anyone will ever report on that, though.


    Your right, they arrested over 700 conseting adults who were looking to meet in private, these are tax payers and members of your community. They only caught 69 kids and pimps and we know most of those pimps will not get 25 years for human trafficking they will get 5 years at the most, heck men rape our children and get out in 5 years.
    They when they find a 16 year old on the strip at 3am they bring her home to the parent who had no clue where their kids was at 3am, or the thrown them back in foster care with little to no counselng and then these teens run away right back to the pimp.
    They are also doing massive raids on masage palors even though they know there are no minors working there nor any true human traffickig victims. Thse spa’s are payg taxes and employing people and the emploees are spending their money in YOUR LOCAL BUSINESSES> Why is a 17 year old teen a victim and once she turns 18 she is a criminal. The way these women are treated is a hate crime, IN PA the chief of police engaged in a sex act with 13 women and then arrested them. In Boston a cop working at the courthouse threatened and exploited sex from 3 women with pending cases, he was not charged with a felony and the jury said they did not thnk the women had been harmed, or the cops that pimped out a 17 year old girl and plead gulty and only got 11 years, or my favorite is the town that spend 13,000 on lap dances at a strip club and still couldnt make one arrest. This is a form of harassment and I watch the cops brag to the media that they will continue to run these women from their communites. Do they just expect these women to become homeless and live in the streets and I even see the cops using the SWAT TEAM to kick in the doors of middle aged women working from home only to issue them a summons to appear in court. Your tax dollars at work, meanwhile the Human trafficking adovcates are collecting donations for victims while providing no services to the victims, instead they use the money to tour the country like a politican lying about the number of kids being exploited. Did they sent even one of the teenagers to bootcamp to see if they could chagne their attitude or provide long term services that will help these girls become independent.
    We have taught society to HATE HOOKERS just like we have taught our children to bully other kids at school. Even the headlines of this story have changed from 884 arrested to include 69 minors and 99 pimps to almost 900 arrested in child prostitution, which makes it sound like 900 men were tryng to purchase kids. 700 legal adults where looking for adult entertainment and are now in jail. 69 kids were rescued and run away back to the pimpwithin a week and the 99 pimps wil plea out and get 5 years at the most, now 800,00 would have put those same 69 kids in beds in a residential program with long term services. Even childrenofthnights puts the girls in college dorms for 4 years once they turn 18.
    I am sure if I went to 900 night clubs I could find 99 bartenders giving drinks to 69 kids. Why is the media trying to convince us all they exploiting kids is the same thing as adult indoor prostitution. The same way the cops tell the media that prostitution brigs other crimes. The same could be said of strip clubs and night clubs.
    Even f we decriminalzie what consenting adults do inprivate law enfocment would stil have the right to show up at the business and check everyones id to mae sure they are of legal age or that nobody is being held against their wil and they could give out their cards to the women and tell them if they ever need to report a CRIME AGAINST THEM to call.
    Most women arested for prostitutio wil claim to be a victim and forced into it. We know most have access to ecell pones and can come and go at will but do not report being held againsttheir will because they are not. The simply fear proseuction and public humilation and abuse from the police during the arrest.
    Canada just threw out all its laws criminalizing prostitution as they said it put all women in harms way and takes awy their sanction and protection. Sweden made it illegal to buy sex so they can still arrest the JOHn and PIMP but they nolonger criminalize selling sex, wo the VICTIM is not thrown in jail. In the USA we are still lying to public, stalking midled aged consenting adults in private, providing noservices for women or children and locking up tax payers over a moral withc hunt.
    Ever wonder why it is legal for a women to get drunk, end up doing half the town, most likely not even using protection, and that is legal. But is a escort is getting paid in private we all have issues with it.

  5. kevin

    It the same at the UK. all the taxpayer money gone in to it. and end up with the same outcome. that will ever lean.

  6. Anna-Louise Crago

    I am curious what “rescued” means for the kids in question. Are they sent through child services? Are they sent to juvenile detention? In a number of places child services and juvenile detention are the same building…and close to the same conditions. A few years ago, research in Canada showed that something like 70% of minors in sex work were already (or had already been) in the system. Furthermore, (in Canada) you can live independently at 16 but you can’t get welfare until 18…Nothing is being done to broaden the social and economic options these kids have. A lot of people see such showy crackdowns as a glamorized way of cracking down on and further criminalizing people in inner-city ghettos. I am curious if that is a further dynamic of these raids.

  7. Tim Matsui

    I think you’re right to question the Rescue Industry, for without it there will be no change. I believe a soft approach of partnership that creates allies is essential to retooling the institutional norms behind the law enforcement and social services divide. Not an easy thing to do, but here in Seattle they’re trying. Seattle had 30% of the rescued prostituted children–because law enforcement is being proactive–but we’ve only got six beds for long-term aftercare. It’s a start…but I would like to see more funds directed toward a more holistic approach.

  8. Divinity33372

    The shadiness of the numbers in this issue annoys me to now end. I did a video on a PDF I found by the Polaris Project on this subject that SCREAMS of dishonesty. I will try to embed it here but if it doesn’t work just click my name & you’ll go to it.

    @Anna-Louise Crago “A few years ago, research in Canada showed that something like 70% of minors in sex work were already (or had already been) in the system.” Do you have a link for that? That would be awesome.

  9. Dave

    Listened to the mp3. Excellent job. I real dose of calm reasoning to a topic that is almost always totally controlled by the rescue industry.

    They just can’t let go of the concept that selling sex equals victimization. The rescue industry seems to have cooked up a one-size-fits-all definition of trafficking that they apply to everyone regardless of how much of a stretch it takes to make it fit. I guess they feel that they have to keep the image simple in order to sell it to the public.

    I also noticed the agreement that “prevention” is the key part of the solution. Prevention of what? Exploitation of children or prostitution in general?

  10. Dave

    I picked on a San Diego rescue group earlier this year because of statements they made:

    “There’s 100,000 children this year which will be commercially, sexually exploited.”

    Junker says the average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12.

    The woman who runs the group, Ms Junker, dropped by and left comments about my post and brought a few friends. The fact that they couldn’t adequately support the claims they were making didn’t phase them. Their answer was simply that the statistics don’t matter as long as they are helping children. Never mind that they are soliciting contributions and funding based on those very scary statistics that supposedly don’t matter. I found their logic stunning in it’s lack of regard for ethics.

  11. laura agustin Post author

    In that sort of radio show, where you can’t see the other speakers or interrupt, it’s impossible to know exactly what anyone else means. I assumed the prevention referred to at the end was about prostitution in general, but I found the moderator too bland, and at the end the two speakers were given a few seconds to make a suggestion for how to improve a gigantic problem.

  12. swoplv

    I have yet to listen to the show, but wanted to add here that anyone under 18 who is caught engaging in prostitution in the US is considered a trafficking victim. You can imagine that this ups the numbers for trafficking victims nation-wide, and the jump is stark pre-and post- designation. It also ups funding, so the more victims an agency can find the more $ they get from DOJ to fight trafficking. What I want to know is the age break-down of all the children.

  13. Chasity

    I think all of this is ridiculous, I AM A VICTIM OF SEX TRAFFICKING and the FBI hasn’t done much of anything for me. They try to send the “victims” to group homes where we’re MISTREATED AND DISRESPECTED or either turn us over into the state’s custody which doesn’t help at all b/c about 95% of the time the victims weren’t just acting out some creep meets you online and takes advantage of you or an older guy gives you the attention and love your parents aren’t giving you, they even put some teen girls in jail for prostitution and then FORCE them to either go to a group home or stay in jail b/c they cant go back home. I went to a group home called wellspring living and even in this video a girl says she didnt want to stay in jail so she went to this program these stupid programs only work for very few teen girls The FBI holds such a high title but unless you’ve actually been a victim and had to deal with the FBI you’ll never know how hard it is. The fbi agents handling my case tried to cover up what a guy did b/c he was a celebrity similar to the sex trafficking case with Lawrence Taylor and Alvin Robertson. And b/c most of the girls involved in sex trafficking are from poor families or havent had the best life they take everything we say a joke and just send us away for maybe 9 months to a year thinking everything will get better but it doesnt its a never ending pain that WILL NOT just go away. Both criminal and civil punishments should be more enforced and these sick bastards called sex offenders should have life sentences, they get out of jail and do the same thing over and over again and they wont stop until they end up killing a teen girl, it seems like the only time “america” gets concerned about sex trafficking is when its one of your pretty little white girls whose parents are always involved in their lives so its SO shocking when she’s a victim. That should prove that everyone’s the same and anything can happen to anyone at ANYTIME no matter who they are. If everyone is truly soooo concerned, lets stop talking about it and actually do something!!!!!! And these men that are obsessed with teen girls aren’t just your tax payers, they could be your husband, your neighbor, your pastor, cousin, brother and some of your local police officers. You’d be surprised. What are we(the victims) supposed to do when no one will listen to us????? and no one will take us seriously, we’re just kids right? naive and stubborn. Maybe the tables have turned b/c it seems like the adults are the people being naive to what they’re children are doing and being stubborn when all we want is someone to listen.


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