(WNN) Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: In a detailed and comprehensive nation-wide campaign sweep that reached into 76 separate U.S. cities, 47 state divisions of the U.S. FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation along with 230 separate agencies and 3,900+ local, state and federal law enforcement officers, have successfully rescued 105 children who have been trapped under sexual-slavery in human trafficking. In the recent sweep 150 individuals involved in the selling and marketing of children for sexual purposes were arrested.
The sweep, as part of the FBI’s ‘Innocence Lost National Initiative‘, is the seventh and largest FBI action dealing with child sex-trafficking to date under ‘Operation Cross Country’ which continues in partnership with the cooperation of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the NCMEC – National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”
Since its creation in 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited. Behind those numbers are the stories of real victims.
As a homeless teenager, Alex was one such victim. At age 15 she faced family difficulties at home. Deciding to stay with a friend then with another family member she faced more continuing challenges that left her with no other option than the street. It was there at the age of 16 that Alex became involved with an misleading and abusive ‘boyfriend’ who made the move to begin to sell Alex to others for sexual purposes. But the abuse and the pimping didn’t stop there. Alex would later be sold by others who were part of the machine of human trafficking inside the United States.
“You learn quickly that the only people who are really willing to feed you, clothe you, and shelter you are your parents,” said Alex in a public and recent release by the FBI. “So I had to figure something out.”
“At first it was terrifying, and then you just kind of become numb to it,” outlined Alex. “You put on a whole different attitude—like a different person. It wasn’t me. I know that. Nothing about it was me.”
“Two years later, Alex bravely contacted the FBI, and her cooperation helped us send two pimps to prison and facilitate the recovery of other underage victims,” said the FBI. “Today, with support from the Bureau’s Office for Victim Assistance, Alex is turning her life around. She earned her high school diploma, is living on her own, and has plans to attend college. She wants to become an advocate for young victims of sexual exploitation,” added the agency.
“What happened to me happened, and I can’t change it,” added Alex. “I can only change my future.”
Children who are the most vulnerable to manipulation by human traffickers have a distinct void in their lives, outlines Special Agent Kurt Ormberg, who helped recover Alex and put her pimp behind bars.
“That void might be related to family, food, or shelter, but it’s a void that needs to be filled, and pimps fill it,” said Agent Ormberg. “Too often these young victims don’t think they have anywhere else to turn,” Agent Ormberg continued.
“Three Of The Worst Crimes Against Children are Rape, Molestation And Inaction,” said the NCMEC in an ongoing public poster campaign that brings numerous important messages to the public on issues affecting children including forced child prostitution. To date the NCMEC has worked with a cyber-tipline to get over 430,000 leads on illegal activity of predators online.
More recent advocates who are now working actively to stop human trafficking and the exploitation of children include 83-year-old Catholic nun, Sister Joan Krimm, of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur located Reading, Ohio. Sister Joan, along with her colleague Sister Karen Hartman, have been writing letters to all the hotels and motels in Cincinnati asking many of the smaller ‘Mom-and-Pop’ hotel operations to ‘keep an eye out’ for children that are accompanied by adults that ‘seem suspicious’.
The two nuns are following up by communicating one-on-one with hotel workers who are often the only ones who may be able to spot suspicious conditions for children, but who don’t always know what to look for.
“I was very lucky to be able to walk away,” Alex said. “I never got hurt, so I’m really, really lucky. I’m one of the few that can say that.” Without the help of the FBI, she added, “I probably would have ended up dead.”
Operation Cross Country—a three-day nationwide enforcement action focusing on underage victims of prostitution—concluded with the recovery of 105 sexually exploited children and the arrests of 150 pimps and other individuals. The sweep took place in 76 cities and was carried out by the FBI in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as part of the Bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. It is the seventh and largest such enforcement action to date. This 2:51 min July 29, 2013 Youtube video release has been produced by the U.S. FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation.
(portions of this WNN release include statements made by the U.S. FBI and other agencies.)
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