We often hear the saying, “the times they are a changing.” One example of this is the ever-increasing problem of child sex trafficking. Our current technology, while benefiting us in many ways, also has a dark side. It has given predators another way to entice their victims. Jaco Booyens, founder of SHAREtogether, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending child sex trafficking and providing victims with needed resources, appeared on NTD’s The Wide Angle. Mr. Booyens provided some vital information about the dangers lurking in our society today. Long gone are the days when all we had to worry about was the strange man down the street or at the mall.
Now, predators can troll for victims via the internet. Since most kids have access to the internet via computers, tablets, phones and even video games, the danger is even more real. Many video games have chat options and others even have voice chat options. KHOU news in Houston reported a 200 percent increase in cases of pedophiles contacting underage children via video games, according to the Houston Police Department.
Authorities highly recommend that parents monitor their children’s online communications, even harmless sounding video games. Even more frightening is that many of these children that are taken by pedophiles are sold for the purposes of sex trafficking. It is almost impossible to monitor your child 24/7, so what else can be done to help protect our children? In this video, Booyens discusses specific state laws governing the age of consent and how strengthening these laws will help us to protect potential victims. SHAREtogether organizes events to raise awareness about sex trafficking and accepts donations to help provide resources to those victims that desperately need it.
Defending Against Child Sex Trafficking by Fixing Child Abuse Laws—Feat. Jaco Booyens | The Wide Angle [Trailer]
Watch the full episode here.
The federal law states that anyone aged 17 and under is below the age of consent. Booyens explains how the problem now is that states are starting to lower the age of consent.“What you are seeing now are some policies being enacted such as the age of consent being lowered in some states. So now you have a conflicting law. You have a law that states a child 17 and under that is sexually exploited is a victim, but the same state will write a law at the moment that will lower the age of consent to 16 even 14 is some cases.” For example, Booyens explains how California enacted a law that supersedes other age laws—if there is a 10-year age difference, the age of consent does not apply. He said this creates dangerous loopholes in the law and pedophiles are familiar with the laws. They will often move from state to state based on what that state law is regarding the age of consent. Several victims that were rescued by SHAREtogether told how their captors would read the laws of the state in which they were currently located to them. States lowering their age of consent make it easier for pedophiles to procure their victims without fear of prosecution. This leaves children even more vulnerable than before.
In the state of Texas, the governor has made the safety of children a critical issue by moving it into the governor’s office by creating an anti-trafficking department. This makes it a proactive approach rather than reactionary one.
Booyens was present when former President Trump signed an executive order stating anyone under the age of 17 was not consensual, in an effort to unite the states in the fight against sex crimes committed against children. This not only overruled state laws that had lowered the age of consent, but it also freed up government funds allowing different agencies to work together to combat child exploitation. However, President Biden reversed that order his third day in office, which disbanded all the cooperative communication that was created between the states by the Trump’s executive order, Booyens said.
According to Booyens, there was another setback which happened as a result of the defund the police movement. When police departments are defunded, the first thing to go were special units, he said. Booyens pointed to the Dallas Police Department as an example. Child sex crimes fall under their vice unit. When their department was defunded the vice unit was disbanded. Therefore, many police departments no longer have units dedicated to stamping out child sex crimes. A further problem is that many of the organizations that provide support, counseling services, and other resources to survivors are faith based and they are being threatened with funding cuts if they do not remove their faith statements. So, instead of being recognized for their good work regardless of faith affiliations, they are being threatened. Mr.Booyens says, “There are some things happening that are making the fight very hard.”
There are not enough organizations doing this work to meet the needs of all the victims as it is, so this situation creates a threat for even more children, Booyens added.
Human Trafficking Myths
The Polaris Project is a social movement dedicated to ending human trafficking. They collect data and statistics and help victims and their families recover. They also have a hotline for human trafficking activity to be reported. Here are some myths they list involving human trafficking.
• Human trafficking is always a violent crime. More often than not, the predator uses psychological weapons to entice their victims.
• Traffickers target people they don’t know. Many survivors report they were taken by partners, spouses and family members. This is very alarming when thinking about child victims as they are more vulnerable with individuals they see as authority figures.
• Only girls and women are victims of sex trafficking. Boys and men are also victims and LGBT men and boys are especially at risk.
• Human trafficking only happens in illegal or underground industries. Cases have been reported and prosecuted in industries such as restaurants, construction, factories and more.
• Sex trafficking is the only kind of trafficking. Human trafficking is also done for labor as well as sex. The video also gives some Important facts about how the crime of child exploitation
• Child sex traffickers mainly get victims by building trust and then manipulating them into sexual exploitation situations.
• Prosecuting the perpetrators is only one way to get rid of the problem. Even more effective is prosecuting those who pay for sexual services with children.
• Children who have been abused, are victims of trauma or live in unstable homes are more at risk to be seduced by predators.
• The fact that predators move from state to state makes is more difficult to Prosecute.
What Can We Do?
With all of these frightening facts and statistics, a parent might think “Well, it is in the lawmaker’s hands. What can I really do?” The answer according to Booyens—be informed, be educated and be vigilant. Information is power. There are many resources like SHAREtogether, the Polaris Project, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that offer valuable information, advice and resources for parents to use in the fight to keep children safe from predators. Supporting these organizations, holding neighborhood meetings, discussing the issue with family members all help. Most important is having conversations with your child about appropriate communication online. Monitoring your child’s activity is vital but your child also needs to understand the dangers that are lurking out there and they need to know they can come to you with any questions or questionable situations. Only when lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, parents and communities work together can the invasion of these predators be stopped, and the world can be made safe for our children again.
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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.