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In the Shadows, Sunday's Silent Victims

Robert Kreider, Devereux's CEO, speaks out about organized sexual trafficking of children, and the need for strong laws that protect children, punish traffickers and provide funding to help those who have been victims of this insidious trade.

While many of us spent Sunday enjoying the Big Game with our family and friends, a terribly vulnerable group of Americans had a very different day. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, it’s estimated that nearly 10,000 women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl. Last weekend, thousands of American children as young as eleven were forcibly sexually trafficked, quite literally in the shadow of one of our nation’s great sporting cathedrals.

This is shocking news for most of us. Unfortunately, it’s the all-too-frequent reality that accompanies many large events in America. At big games, business conventions and trade shows around the country, children are being forced to do the unthinkable for the profit of others – those others often being highly sophisticated criminal organizations.

The organized sexual trafficking of children isn’t something that only happens in far-flung corners of the globe. This is happening here – in our cities, to our children – and everywhere it happens, anywhere in the world, it’s abhorrent, and it must be stopped.

In preparation for this weekend, New Jersey and New York law enforcement, in partnership with federal authorities, worked tirelessly to fight the expected spike in sex trafficking. They are to be commended for their work, but they can’t beat this on their own. Every single one of us must engage to help these kids.

Sexually exploited children endure extreme physical, emotional and psychological trauma that significantly changes their brain chemistry and can lead to a lifetime of difficulties. As a general public, we have to be vigilant—and when we see we a child at risk, we must get involved. In our guts, we know when we witness something strange. If your instincts tell you a child is in danger, please do something. Call your local police.

We also need to reach out to our state and federal legislators. We need strong laws that protect children, punish traffickers and provide funding to help those who have been victims of this insidious trade. Their road to recovery is long, and we need to provide the appropriate legal, clinical and education programming to help them.

At Devereux, we are developing some of the first, best-practice programs in the nation to help these children recover from their trauma, and regain their emotional and academic footing. I can tell you first-hand, these children are deserving of our help, and are desperately in need of it. We must not let attention to this issue fade when the big game ends.  Please remember these children and engage your local communities to help them.


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