Yet, as we have pointed out in numerous stories, few resources have been devoted to sheltering the victims.
If you want to help children trapped in underage prostitution, there is something you can do.
U. S. Senate Bill 596 deserves your attention and your support. This legislation would, for the first time, provide federal funding for beds and assistance to underage victims of prostitution.
Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced SB 596 on March 16, 2011. The key component is six one-year grants of $2,000,000 to $2,500,000 for shelter and counseling.
As you can imagine, a child engaged in prostitution brings a difficult mix of issues to the table including, but not limited to, drug addiction, sexual abuse and homelessness. These are problems that need sustained attention.
In an article published last June ("Real Men Get Their Facts Straight"), we cited the Bridge program in Seattle, which is one of the few efforts in the entire country devoted to housing underage prostitutes. (The Bridge is financed locally.)
"These children, as victims, need more trauma-recovery services, " director Melinda Giovengo told us. "There is evidence that a dedicated residential recovery program, with wraparound mental-health, chemical dependence, and educational and vocational services, provided by well-trained specialists, both on-site and in the community, can help young victims of commercial sexual exploitation in breaking free of the track."
There are fewer than 100 beds scattered across the nation dedicated to these children.
The $15 million proposal from Senators Cornyn and Wyden is a cold, hard number. A fact.
Facts are important if you want to address underage prostitution.
Since 1997 the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars for religious groups, prohibitionists and reformers all over the world to end human trafficking. Yet the proposed funds in SB 596 are the first dollars earmarked to put a roof over the heads of victims in America.
By painting the sex-trafficking problem in this country as overwhelming, advocates may actually be hurting the children who truly need help.
Instead of helping victims, states are now passing legislation aimed at suppressing cabaret dancers. Instead of helping victims, prohibitionists are attacking pornography.
Facts are important because facts, not emotion, keep you focused.
How to reach Senators Cornyn and Wyden:
Senator John Cornyn:
The Honorable John Cornyn
United States Senate
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4303
E-mail: Senator Cornyn doesn't have a direct e-mail address, but you can send him an e-mail if you fill out a contact form with name, address, etc.:
Senator Ron Wyden:
The Honorable Ron Wyden
United States Senator
223 Dirksen State Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3703
Contact form (e-mail): http://wyden.senate.gov/contact/