Porn consumption is contributing to child sex trafficking epidemic

Porn consumption is contributing to child sex trafficking epidemic
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The systematic buying and selling of young boys and girls for sex is growing at a shocking rate in the United States and around the globe.

Recently, the body of 17-year-old Mikayla Mitchell of Sherman, Texas was found in a Dallas pond. Last summer, Mikayla was kidnapped in West Texas and investigators now believe she was being sold for sex. When she tried to escape, her captors responded with sub-human violence.

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The heart-breaking story of Mikayla Mitchell is but one example of the thousands of American children who are being forced into a modern-day underground sex trade by a growing network of violent sexual predators.

 

A 2016 study by the Center for Court Innovation found that between 8,900 and 10,500 children, ages 13 to 17, are commercially exploited each year in the United States.

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing organized crime activity in the United States, making almost $32 billion a year for traffickers while destroying the lives of tens of thousands of innocent children. Nearly 70 percent of these transactions now take place online.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE, the U.S Department of Justice, a bipartisan group of legislators in the U.S. House and Senate, alongside federal, state, and local law enforcement are working with a vast network of anti-trafficking nonprofit organizations to combat sex trafficking primarily by attacking the “supply” side of the child sex trafficking issue.

But national efforts to combat this exploding epidemic fall short in addressing the “demand” side of this heinous equation. Both sides of the political divide in America should agree that adults seeking sex with young children for the profit of organized criminals is wicked and must be stopped.

The U.S. Congress is working toward legislation to fight the supply side of the problem by giving federal, state, and local law enforcement the tools necessary to hold online child sex traffickers accountable by amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to protect victims who are caught up in the sex trade.

The “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” passed out of the U.S. House this week and we expect it to pass the Senate very soon. This bill breaks new ground by allowing survivors of trafficking the legal power to sue websites that were used to facilitate human trafficking.

While the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” will help law enforcement put sexual criminals behind bars and allow victims some semblance of justice and restitution, until the deviant desire for sex with underage children dissipates, the problem will continue to plague our society and threaten our most vulnerable.

As a society, it is time we ask, what would cause apparently law-abiding “normal” Americans: doctors, lawyers, elected officials, etc., to go into business with traffickers in order to purchase sex with a child?

There are no easy answers to this question, but until our efforts to stop child sex trafficking attack the root of the demand for sex with children as aggressively as we attack the supply children for this vast trafficking network, then the issue will continue to haunt our national conscience and hundreds of thousands of our children will be systematically raped and abused for profit.

It is no coincidence that the rise in the number of child sex trafficking cases in the U.S. runs parallel with the rise of readily available pornography on the internet. The research community is desperately trying to understand America’s voracious appetite for pornography and determine if it is connected to externalized behavior.

A 2015 study by the Journal of Sex Research demonstrated that “constant novelty and primacy of sexual stimuli as particularly strong natural rewards make internet pornography a unique activator of the brain’s reward system” and “novelty is compelling because it triggers bursts of dopamine in regions of the brain strongly associated with reward and goal-directed behavior.”

The Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force recently found 46 published research studies demonstrating that exposure to pornography puts individuals at increased risk for committing sexual offenses.

Unfortunately, the desire for sexual stimuli leads some adults to seek out avenues for their deviant sexual fantasies in the real world, putting more and more vulnerable young people at risk.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Boston performed a Google trend analysis showing searches for “teen porn” more than tripled between 2005-2013, and teen porn searches reached an estimated 500,000 daily in March 2013 or over one-third of total daily porn searches. You read that right, 500,000 searches daily for teen pornography.

In other words, Americans are becoming more and more attracted to pornography depicting sex with underage persons and this growing exposure to increasingly deviant porn is driving more criminals toward victimizing more teenagers.

So, what can be done to curtail this seemingly insatiable desire of some for sex with underage children? One way to start is for the federal and state governments to recognize that pornography seems to be a public health risk contributing to the meteoric rise of child sex trafficking.

Recently, the Florida House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring pornography a health risk. The sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Ross Spano (R-Fla.), cited multiple pieces of research showing a connection between consistent use of pornography and mental and physical illnesses and problematic sexual behavior. Spano encouraged Florida lawmakers to provide further research, education, and policies for Florida citizens on the potential dangers of pornography.

The Trump administration, Congress and more elected officials in all 50 states should strongly consider similar action to Rep. Spano’s leadership in Florida. Americans already must be warned of possible health effects of tobacco usage.

We warn pregnant mothers of possible damage to their babies if they use certain pharmaceuticals. Perhaps it is time for us to begin warning Americans that consumption of certain illicit online images may seem innocuous and mundane, but it is coming at a severe cost for many of our most vulnerable Americans.

Timothy Head is the executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.