It's now been two years since 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. I wrote a blog in July 2014 about the well-founded outrage that emanated from all parts of the world carried on the digital wings of the hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls. In that blog, I also wondered aloud why there was so little public clamor about the same number of U.S. children that were being sexually abused and raped each day in the commercial sex business within our own country. Today, I want to take this opportunity to remember those still-missing Nigerians girls and women while updating our numbers of the still-being-sexually-exploited U.S. children inside our borders.
It's important to remember that each life and each future of every child, whether they're in Nigeria or New Jersey, is equally precious. As Americans, however, one would hope that we have more power to affect change at home than we might have in affecting a situation starring an unhinged group of terrorists 9,000 miles away. That's why I would strongly recommend, after remembering the remainder of those missing Nigerian girls and women, we turn our attention to the approximately 200,000* U.S. children that have been sexually abused and raped in the commercial sex industry over the past 735 days since the Nigerian kidnapping.
"Turning our attention" could start with gaining a better understanding of the problem: what makes children vulnerable to sexual exploitation in our country? Neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse at home or in familiar settings certainly increases the chances that a child could be exploited commercially for sex. Helping parents and children recognize the signs and potential consequences of neglect and abuse may reduce the numbers of exploited people over the next 735 days.
If you know of or suspect the abuse of a child, you can call:
- Your local Child Protective Service (CPS) office or
- Childhelp USA ® 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453) or
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: 800-THE-LOST (800-843-5678)
If you want to make a difference, home is a good place to start. Here is my original #SaveUSChildren blog.
* According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of Justice, somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 U.S. children are either trafficked or at risk of being trafficked for commercial sex each year. (To be clear, NCMEC estimated in 2010 that 100,000 children are actually sold commercially for sex in the United States each year. The U.S. DOJ estimates that 300,000 children are vulnerable to being sold commercially for sex each year.)