The Sex Slave Next Door

The Sex Slave Next Door

By Maggie Gallagher - November 10, 2010

This week, the feds arrested 29 Somalis for running a sex trafficking ring abusing girls as young as 12 in Minnesota, Tennessee and Ohio.

A Midwest sex trafficking ring? Who knew?

One of the great mysteries in life is the hierarchy of pain. How do we decide whose suffering we pay attention to at any given time?

Evil people take advantage of our limited attention span, our tendency to focus on "people like us," however we define "us." In the shadows of our inattention, evildoers flourish.

How do modern-day sex slavers do it? A needs assessment provided in 2008 to the Minnesota legislature by The Advocates for Human Rights reported: "Traffickers seek out persons perceived to be vulnerable for various reasons, including age, poverty, chemical dependency, history of abuse, lack of resources or support systems, or lack of immigration status. Traffickers then use various tactics to control these persons that may include inflicting sexual, emotional or mental abuse; confiscating documents; inducing or enabling chemical addiction; withholding money or identification documents; and violent physical assaults or threats of assaults."

In Minneapolis/St. Paul, according to the indictments handed down, the Somali gangsters who ran these sex trafficking rings used them to finance their lifestyle -- and to provide for their own sexual satisfactions as well.

One 13-year-old girl, "Jane Doe Two," was first forced to engage in sex in November 2006, when two defendants raped her in an apartment in St. Paul, then as other men arrived, charged them money to have sex with the girl.

According to the indictment: "Jane Doe Two was informed ... that selling Jane Doe Two for sex would be called a 'Mission.' It was a rule that members of the (gangs) would not be charged for sex with Jane Doe Two as they were fellow gang members."

One defendant, Haji Osman Salad, nicknamed "Hollywood," later made Jane Doe Two "his girl." He would pick her up from public school, take her to an apartment for sex, and then order her to have sex with other men, the indictment said. In one two-day period in April 2009, the teenager was forced to have sex at least 10 times with nine different men, then driven to Nashville. En route, Haji Osman Salad made a cell phone video of "his girl" engaging in sex with other occupants of the vehicle, according to the indictment.

Law enforcement officials said the cases came to their attention in part because elders in the Somali community brought their suspicions to police.

We all need to be watching.

This month, the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative arrested 885 suspects and rescued 69 victims of child sex trafficking.

Health and Human Services runs a hotline for victims of sex trafficking or those who know of such victims in their communities: (888) 373-7888. Victims of sex trafficking who are illegal immigrants can receive the equivalent of refugee status under the law.

Renewal Forum in Washington, D.C., is the only nonprofit in the U.S. whose single-focused mission is abolishing sex trafficking within the United States. It is pioneering a "model city" pilot project to bring together community stakeholders to demonstrate that this evil can in fact be abolished.

There are no firm estimates of the number of young women and girls who are victims of sex trafficking. Worldwide estimates are as high as 4 million girls and young women. In 2004 the State Department estimated that right here in the U.S. as many as 17,500 girls and women are victims.

In the city where you live, right now today, girls are being gang-raped, drugged and forced into prostitution. They are not "sex workers"; they are sex slaves.

It is not happening in some remote 19th-century orientalist harem fantasy; it is happening today, next door, right under our noses.

Copyright 2010, Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher

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