This is off-topic for me, I know. But I need to share what I learned at a recent informational event to raise awareness about human sex trafficking. Because it’s a subject that nobody talks about, and one that we all should understand. Until recently, I simply didn’t comprehend the vast reach that sex trafficking has in our society, and what we can do about it. Do you?
Each year, as many as 300,000 children are affected. It’s off-topic for me, I know. But I need to share what I recently learned about human sex trafficking. A teenaged girl burned to death on a busy Los Angeles street. Another who was arrested for prostitution and the perpetrator (a child molester, technically) sent to “John School.” And as many as 300,000 children under 18 trafficked for sex every year, most beginning at age 12.
These stories confronted and confounded me as Kim Biddle, Executive Director of Saving Innocence addressed a group gathered on behalf of Artists for Human Rights, a non-profit founded by the actress Anne Archer, which focuses on raising awareness of human rights issues internationally.
I joined the June event as a guest of Jenna Elfman, one of many hosts for the evening, and for both of us, the subject hit close to home. Beforehand, Jenna shared with me the importance of fighting for human rights, but I had no idea how directly these basic rights are threatened by the problem of human trafficking.
I learned that sex trafficking isn’t restricted to any one area or income level. A new sex trafficking film seeking Kickstarter funding documents children targeted in Seattle; Los Angeles, where I live, is a hub for the sex trafficking industry. Here, girls have been rescued from virtual slavery in every community of the city—from Beverly Hills to the San Fernando Valley. They come from all backgrounds—although the majority are foster kids—and are lured by promises of modeling jobs or easy money.
“The new hot commodity in our world is human beings,” Biddle said, after disclosing that the rates of human trafficking are now projected to surpass drug trafficking. “It exists where the money is—the money to buy products. In this case, the products are human beings.”
Biddle became aware of the problem in Cambodia, when she witnessed a human sex slave who was four years old. Then she realized that this was happening in her city, too. Through Saving Innocence, she’s trained three thousand law officers, teachers and lawyers—the front line for cries for help—to recognize and react to cases of human trafficking. Through a partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Human Trafficking Unit, the organization has saved more than 200 children and convicted more than 40 traffickers—a 100% conviction rate.
How can you help? Consider a donation to Saving Innocence of your time, funds, or even the essential supplies in the bright pink Freedom Bag that the non-profit gives to each girl they rescue.
Throughout her presentation, Biddle clutched the white teddy bear that’s included in the bag. I couldn’t help thinking of my own children—two of them teenagers—and the stuffed animals that still live in their rooms. For them, these toys are symbols of childhood. For the children rescued by Saving Innocence, they’re a symbol of hope.
Photo of Angie Everhart, Kim Biddle, Lisa Foxx and Jenna Elfman courtesy of Saving Innocence.