Sexual slavery exists in America because sex sells. When some people hear about sex trafficking in America they usually think of Asian and Eastern European women being brought into the States, but it’s actually 10 times more likely for an American girl to be trafficked inside the U.S. Further, almost 300,000 American children are at risk for trafficking into the sex industry, according to U.S. Department of State statistics.
“For National Geographic’s “Inside: Secret America” series, investigative journalist Mariana van Zeller, who is now a correspondent for Fusion, an ABC News joint venture with Univision, and her producers Darren Foster and Alex Simmons went undercover on the streets of Houston to get a first-hand glimpse inside the world of sex trafficking. The “American Sex Slave” episode aired on Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.
During the investigation, a man who had been in the lobby of a massage parlor at a strip mall waved van Zeller over to his car. The man told her he was a lawyer and the spa was known around town as a place where men can pay $200 to get the “full service.” He then offered van Zeller money and said if she “took care” of him, then he would “take care” of her.
“This guy told me that if I worked five guys a day that I could make $1,000 a day, and it was pretty good,” van Zeller told her team after she walked away.
When van Zeller looked up the man later that evening, she said she found he does have a professional job and did not find evidence he was a pimp.
However, during the course of her investigation, van Zeller learned about the wide range of pimps. She sat down with sex trafficking victim Jillian Mourning. Growing up as the quintessential girl-next-door, Mourning was a high school cheerleader and a straight-A student. As a 19-year-old college freshman, she said she became a part-time model.
But while on one job in Scottsdale, Ariz., Mourning told van Zeller that three men entered her hotel room in the middle of the night. One of them was a man in the modeling industry.
“And they all raped me, and they videotaped it and photographed it,” Mourning said.
When she returned home to Charlotte, N.C., Mourning told van Zeller that she was too embarrassed to tell her friends what had happened to her and too afraid to go to the police. She decided to put the incident behind her, but then she said her abuser called.”
“He wanted me to meet these men and sleep with them, and he gets all the footage,” Mourning said. “And I was like, ‘I’m not comfortable with that.” and then he said, “well, you know, in other words, if I’m not going to be able to get you to do this voluntarily, then you’re still going to do it.'”
Mourning told van Zeller that her abuser claimed he had the videos of her being raped in Arizona and he threatened to sell them on the Internet with her name attached to them if she didn’t prostitute for him.
“It became threat after threat after blackmail after blackmail,” Mourning said. “So when he went to say, ‘hey, you know, I need you to go to this city,’ or ‘I’m in Charlotte and I need you to meet with this person,’ then I did.”
Mourning said her trafficker was a wealthy and respected member of the Charlotte community, not someone who would have been suspected of sex trafficking.” (continued)
Act 18 U.S.C. § 1591, or the Commercial Sex Act, the US makes it illegal to recruit, entice, obtain, provide, move or harbor a person or to benefit from such activities knowing that the person will be caused to engage in commercial sex acts where the person is under 18 or where force, fraud or coercion exists.
Under the Bush Administration, fighting sex slavery worldwide and domestically became a priority with an average of $100 million spent per year, which substantially outnumbers the amount spent by other countries. Before President Bush took office, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). The TVPA strengthened services to victims of violence, law enforcement’s ability to reduce violence against women and children, and education against human trafficking. Also specified in the TVPA was a mandate to collect funds for the treatment of sex trafficking victims that provided them with shelter, food, education, and financial grants. Internationally, the TVPA set standards that governments of other countries must follow in order to receive aid from the U.S. to fight human trafficking. Once George W. Bush took office in 2001, restricting sex trafficking became one of his primary humanitarian efforts. The Attorney General under President Bush, John Ashcroft, strongly enforced the TVPA. The Act was subsequently renewed in 2004, 2006, and 2008. It established two stipulations an applicant has to meet in order to receive the benefits of a T-Visa. First, a trafficked victim must prove/admit to being trafficked, and second must submit to the prosecution of his or her trafficker. In 2011, Congress failed to re-authorize the Act. The State Department publishes an annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which examines the progress that the U.S. and other countries have made in destroying human trafficking businesses, arresting the kingpins, and rescuing the victims.
Yet sex trafficking still continues despite the above, and the majority of abducted children, teens, and young adults are sold into the U.S. sex trade daily.