I’ve been debating if I was going to write about my experience that I had last Friday. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions since that day, but I think my opinions and ideas deserve to be heard and written, just like the children (and adults) whom this topic is about. They deserve the justice.
Many of you know I study social work and my emphasis is in child adolescence, and just recently I got certified to be specialized in youth exploitation. So what does that mean? Basically when I graduate and pass my social work exam, I am qualified to assess and assist in the lives of youth that has been exploited… I think the proper way to state this is like simply this: I’ll never feel qualified to assess and assist in the lives of innocent children whom society has failed. I’ll never understand why even in a first world country nobody is speaking, screaming, become hysteric over the increasing epidemic of what child exploitation and human sexual trafficking is becoming. We’ve all sat by and let our youth get shit on. We’ve worried about the innocence and safety of our own children- but what about the kid on the street who is fighting for their life? Let me break it down for you.
There are over 45,000 children who are unaccompanied minors in the United States, AKA the homeless youth of America. The chances of one of those children being picked up off the street and being sold into sex slavery or engaging in sexual activity within the first 48 hours of their time on the streets is over 50%. The children who have been raised and grew up on those streets? The chances of them already being a victim of sexual assault, violence, abuse or sexual exploitation jumps from about 21-70%. A child who grows up not on the streets, in a home, only has about 1-3% chance of experiencing sexual abuse. Now keep in mind, those are the claims that are actually made and reported. I’m sure the percentage is much higher in actuality, but these are the statistics I have to work with. In Seattle, we have one of the largest homeless youth populations in America… Ranges from 5,000-10,000 adolescence every single year. We make up 1/4 of the homeless youth in America. Let that sink in for a moment…
You probably know a child who has struggled with homelessness. I know you see them everyday on the street. You try not to make eye-contact with them when they’re holding up signs and you’re driving to work. They ask you for bagged-up leftovers when you’re walking down the street because they’re starving. They have soiled clothes, dirty hair and probably an array of diseases that the streets have so kindly given them. But you just sit there in your car thinking, “I’m not a bad person for not giving the homeless some money or my leftovers. I’m struggling, too. They can change if they want to. They all have drug problems, I’m feeding their addiction if I give them money.”
You want the real truth of why our youth, our homeless population (especially Seattle) has such an alarming rate of drug problems? Because when they’re trying to sleep on the cold, hard concrete, they have another homeless person attacking them. Getting on top of them, unzipping their pants, groping them, penetrating the victim as they’re lying there helpless because they know nobody around them will help. They know nobody will reach out to the homeless person. This victim won’t scream, won’t make a sound and definitely won’t go to a person of authority because NOBODY CARES about them. Meanwhile, that homeless person who just got raped (if that isn’t bad enough) was probably a minor and just engaged in non-consentual survival sex. This victim isn’t going to talk because they know this happens frequently… This probably wasn’t the first time, second or even third. This happens every night, whether it be another homeless person or a person who knew better. You’d be surprised how many married, established, WHITE, privileged men seek out homeless children and do the most vile, disgusting things imaginable to them… Just for power. Because who is someone going to believe? A homeless drug addict or an established, CEO family man?
There are children on the street who think it’s normal to live this life… They give blow jobs for food, they go on “dates” for the hotel room to sleep in, if they’re lucky. They’ve lost their innocence at an age where they should be losing their teeth, learning how to read and ride a bike… They think that this is the scheme to getting rich. Have sex with older, rich men and they’ll give me the diamonds, the pearls, the future… Meanwhile, these children are so riddled with drug habits that they’ll never really see a dime from their “work”.
It’s not just the children who do this… We are aware of the epidemic. We know there’s a homeless problem. We know there is an exploitation problem, but we’re not doing anything about it. Our government isn’t funding safe houses or programs to get these people off the streets and the help they deserve. Because let’s be real clear here, ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 (or anyone forced into exploitation/sex trafficking) DOES NOT CONSENT AND IS AUTOMATICALLY A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.
Nobody under the age of 18 “chooses” this life or the other side of the tracks… They don’t have that option. They were never given an option. Because even if that child wanted to engage in sexual relations with an adult, they obviously must’ve felt like there was nothing else they could’ve done for money, safety, food, etc. They obviously have had a troubled life and they need the help that social workers, clinicians, therapists and doctors can give them. We are doing them a disservice by not being enraged about this.
I’ve heard stories where girls will say that the sexual abuse and assault that they dealt with in their homes trained them for sex trafficking. That their “daddy” really loves them and cares about them. That when he beats her, he’s only doing it because he knows she can make more money. He’ll give her hits and bumps of drugs to help her forget, to help her perform. She’ll contract STD’s and go months without seeing a doctor… By the time she get’s services, it’ll be too late. She’ll perform her own abortions and suffer miscarriages due to her lifestyle. There’s a famous quote by a survivor who said, “You call it rape, I call it Tuesday.” To think that there is a woman or child out there who is currently in this situation breaks my heart. It hurts my soul because I’m not qualified to help these victims yet… But, even the people that are qualified don’t have the resources to help these innocent lives.
The next time you see someone who is homeless, think about this. Accept that they probably do have a drug problem, and probably have so much trauma that they’re not functioning like you are– But they still need your help. They might buy drugs with your money, but you don’t know that for a fact… And I’m damn sure that two dollars in your pocket is going to help them more than it will help you. The next time you hear about a kid in a weird situation or you have any inkling that something is going on, please speak up. Don’t be the rest of the fucked up society we live in… BE the change. There are so many people who need our help. Get educated, get informed and get with the program of changing societal norms. We will be the generation that helps end sex trafficking and youth exploitation. I will die trying… I hope you do, too.