For many, many years child exploitation and abuse perpetrated by people in positions of authority have been ignored or downplayed. Too many of those whose role in society it is to defend the vulnerable, enforce laws that protect children, or call for justice for them have been shown to be using their positions of authority to exploit and abuse, or at the least, to be complicit in letting it go forward. Some of them are finally being brought to justice, but that’s probably the tip of the iceberg.
There has been a constant drumbeat in the news in the last few weeks about long-festering cases of child exploitation that are now coming into the public eye:
Jeffrey Epstein given a very meagre sentence by the then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta (now Secretary of Labor).
R. Kelly arrested for sexually exploiting 4 young women, 3 of whom were under 18 years old.
The documentary by HBO about Michael Jackson’s “relationship” with young boys.
The Catholic Church just completed a summit meeting at the Vatican about systemic child abuse for decades.
The Southern Baptist Convention having to now deal with child abuse that was reported for years but never addressed.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been accused of soliciting sex in Florida after a large-scale investigation into sex trafficking in the state.
The natural question is how to respond, what can and should be done to fight this? For over 25 years, ECPAT-USA has been working to end the sexual exploitation of children through:
Working with the private sector to train key people in how to identify trafficking and how to report it. We do this in the travel industry, where most of the large hotels chains have signed our Code of Conduct and implemented training for staff. Marriott hotels trained 500,000 associates in the last year to identify and report trafficking. And that is just one company. And there have already been cases where an employee saved a young person.
Empowering youth in New York City through educating middle and high school students to recognize the signs of when they are being groomed by a predator.
Raising awareness of the issue and championing legislation that supports trafficking survivors.
While the recent news stories about trafficking can be overwhelming, reporting on the issue is also important. It lets victims know that this is not something they have to accept and that they can come forward. And it lets someone being approached know that they don’t have to succumb.
And the increased reporting is forcing institutions that have ignored the problem for years to finally deal with it.