Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shaniya's Plight Draws Attention to Child Trafficking in US and Abroad

"Expert: Child traffickers target runaways, 'throwaways'"
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
November 18, 2009 1:48 p.m. EST

"Who killed 5-year-old Shaniya Davis? Her mother is charged with human trafficking, and many questions remain about what happened."
"It sounds like the plot of a crime drama or the scourge of a developing country, but human trafficking is a serious problem in the U.S. and America's children are frequent pawns, experts say.

The case of Antoinette Nicole Davis, a North Carolina mother accused of selling her 5-year-old daughter, Shaniya, into prostitution, highlights one of the most heinous -- albeit rare -- forms of trafficking within the U.S....

Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that studies human trafficking, has more frequently seen cases in which children were sold by family members 'out of desperation in developing countries' such as Cambodia or sub-Saharan African nations, said executive director and CEO Mark Lagon.

'But it happens sometimes here,' he said.

More common in the United States are traffickers who exploit abused runaways or so-called 'throwaways' -- children abandoned by their parents and living on the streets, Lagon said.

'The trafficker plays the role of a father or loverboy who is offering care to the child, who is vulnerable,' he said, explaining that what begins as flattery and attention often turns to suggestions of prostitution.

The child, typically homeless and in need of food and shelter, can be manipulated into 'survival sex,' Lagon said. In other instances, the trafficker or pimp will get the child hooked on drugs and use their addiction as leverage...

In August, two bar owners and a manager in Long Island, New York, were charged with sex trafficking and alien harboring with victims as young as 17. A few days later, a husband and wife in Orange County, Florida, were charged with kidnapping a 15-year-old at gunpoint and forcing her to turn tricks.

In September, a U.S. Army private and three other men were indicted on charges of running a sex-trafficking businesses from a Millersville, Maryland, apartment. One of the prostitutes was 16.

No pleas have been entered in the Florida or Maryland cases. The three defendants in Long Island have pleaded not guilty.

While prostitution is a common impetus for trafficking children, Lagon said there are numerous examples of young men and women being forced into domestic servitude. Many times, he said, those victims are sexually abused as well."

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