House Judiciary Committee
House Bill 245
Bill sponsored by Delegate Joanne C. Benson
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Concerned Women for America
Dr. Crouse has spent over a decade working to combat sex trafficking by serving on two national task forces and working to pass national legislation [the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and its 2003, 2005 and 2007 reauthorizations] that would increase efforts worldwide. She also works as a nongovernmental organization representative with the State Department in its efforts. In addition, she conducts research and analyses, writes articles, conducts media interviews, and provides commentary. She has twice been an official U.S. delegate to the United Nations where sex trafficking has been at the top of the agenda. She was the director of two federal grants to provide training to Mexican leaders to combat trafficking into the United States through its Southern borders.
Every year by estimates of the United States State Department, between 14,500 -17,000 children and women are brought into the United States for what the President has called “modern-day slavery.” Some estimates run as high as 50,000 per year. Sex trafficking is a scourge that is little known among most Americans because it happens under the “radar” of public scrutiny and off the beaten pathways of polite society — primarily in the sleazy parts of our cities, on the side streets of our towns, in trailers off seldom-traveled rural roads, and in shacks located in isolated areas of the nation’s countryside. A 2001 report by Richard Estes and Neil Weiner at the University of Pennsylvania estimated 293,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Some of them are being exploited in Baltimore right off the I-95 highway.
We cannot combat this terrible crime unless we recognize that it is happening and learn about its victims who are primarily vulnerable children and women who are preyed upon by very sophisticated networks of evil criminals who are making nearly $10 billion a year — much of it used to finance organized crime – and there are documented ties to terrorism. The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that trafficking in persons is tied with arms dealing as the number two source of revenue for organized crime (behind drugs). The human beings lured into being trafficked end up in prostitution, sweatshops, farms, domestic work or other forms of involuntary servitude. Most are treated brutally and repeatedly degraded. Over half of the victims end up trafficked for sexual exploitation; some are forced to serve up to 30 men a day.
The toll on individuals caught in this tragedy is terrible enough; that toll is compounded by the broader impact — the human and social toll — disease, drug addiction, physical and emotional damage, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, social breakdown, loss of educational opportunity, productivity and earning power.
The Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section website says the average age of entry into prostitution for girls is between the ages of 12 and 14 and for boys between the ages of 11 and 13. Some may look at an older prostituted woman and think she made that choice but when you see this figure, how can you think a girl that was prostituted at 12 or 13 years old and is still trapped in that life is a willing participant? Behind each victim’s face is a story that probably started with child sexual abuse and went downhill after that.
Prostitution and sex trafficking are inextricably linked and the bond that cements them is demand. If men are willing to buy a woman, for 15 minutes, an hour, a day, someone will make sure there is a woman to be sold.
It is so important to understand the role that demand plays in pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking. Pornography addictions are on the rise and the need for more hard-core material increases as users are de-sensitized to the images. Soon an image of a woman is not enough, a child’s abuse and rape caught on film is necessary to stimulate. Then the need to touch instead of look leads to searching for prostituted women and children and when the demand for more victims increases, they are trafficked in to meet the demand. Going after those seeking to exploit women and children must be an integral part of the effort at ending human trafficking.
The U.S. government has stepped up its efforts to investigate, arrest and prosecute those involved in trafficking but given the scope of the problem, it needs much more attention. Between Fiscal Years 2001 and 2006 the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide have prosecuted 360 defendants, secured 238 convictions and opened 639 new investigations. As these are U.S. investigations, the establishment of a Task Force in Maryland is a timely and necessary endeavor. Trafficking happens within and across state borders and Marylanders are not exempt from this modern-day slavery occurring in their communities.
We have learned much about the problem over the past several years. One tragic lesson we have learned is that our efforts are not always keeping up with the growth of the problem.
That is why House Bill 245 is so important. Becoming aware of the problem and raising awareness about it in towns and communities is the first step in ending the horror that is human trafficking.
Trafficking in persons is a human rights violation and every major city in America is affected. Maryland has not been immune. In the past few years Maryland has had several well-publicized cases of human trafficking.
Aaron Burroughs, a former junior varsity football coach at Bowie High School was arrested and indicted by a federal grand jury in 2006 of pimping a 14-year-old girl.1
Theresa Mubang of Silver Spring was sentenced in 2005 to more than 17 years in prison for her conviction of the involuntary servitude and harboring for financial gain of an 11-year-old Cameroonian girl for two years.2
Sunni Ham of Temple Hills pled guilty in 2007 to sex trafficking children for taking two teenage Baltimore girls to the District of Columbia to prostitute them.3
If you want an indication of the pervasiveness of child pornography in Maryland just peruse the Baltimore FBI office’s press release section on its website to see how many people are arrested and convicted for the production, possession, distribution and transportation of child pornography. A commercial sex act is defined as any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person. For those that are part of a child pornography ring, images that are bartered to obtain other images are of great value to those who possess them.
Through House Bill 245, the Maryland Legislature is leading taking an important and necessary step towards increased awareness of the evil phenomenon of modern-day slavery and, through its legislation, is making it possible to bring an end to this crime that is causing so much tragedy for so many vulnerable children and women and men.
- Brigid Schulte, “Coach Indicted on Child Sex Trafficking Charges,” Washington Post, 21 October 2006.
- Ruben Castaneda, “Woman Convicted of Enslaving Girl Flees,” Washington Post, 3 March 2005.
- Department of Justice Press Release, “Maryland man pleads guilty to sex trafficking of children and pandering,” 4 April 2007.