Monday, October 19, 2009

Stop Child Trafficking NOW

Group rallies to bring attention to child prostitution

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Chants broke out on Las Vegas Boulevard late Saturday as community members gathered to raise awareness and money to help stop child prostitution.

Stop Child Trafficking Now organizers walked through residential areas carrying signs with slogans like “Real Men Don’t Buy Sex” and “Stop Buying Our Girls.”

Joseph South, local community organizer for Stop Child Trafficking Now, said the goal of the walk was to raise awareness and thank investigators working to save children from trafficking operations. Stop Child Trafficking Now is a national group that has organized walks in other major cities.

Andrea Pitcher, who walked with the group, said the "24/7" atmosphere of Las Vegas means teenagers can go unsupervised. She said parents work late hours and aren’t always around their children -- a factor that can push them in the direction of prostitution, she said.

“This is a very fast economy,” she said of prostitution. “It’s also very money-driven.”

She said lack of supervision allows children to get on the Internet and look for modeling jobs that aren't always as they appear. Terri Miller, who walked with the group Saturday, said she lost her niece after she responded to a fake modeling job.

“My niece was trafficked from here to Japan,” Miller said. “Luckily, her family made contact with her and got her back home.”

According to Regulated Management, a Las Vegas-based group that says its mission is to "evaluate the problems and effects of the criminal enterprise of illegal prostitution on Las Vegas society," about 1,500 children from 40 states were victims of sex trafficking in Las Vegas over a 13-year period.

“Las Vegas has a reason why it’s called Sin City,” said Bob Fischer, communications director of Regulated Management. “There are all different forms of prostitution, and there’s a great deal of apathy in this city.”

Jackie Capasso, of Christians Against Sexual Slavery, said while child and adult prostitution are separate issues, many women got into prostitution a young age.

UNLV researcher and assistant professor Alexis Kennedy said homeless children exposed to prostitution are taken to jail instead of receiving counseling.

“We’ve drawn them here with our bright lights and now we have to take care of them,” she said. “An 11-year-old is a child, and we had a 13-year-old arrested last weekend.”

Kennedy urged residents to speak to their legislators about the need for a safe house in Las Vegas.

For now, Las Vegas has Safe Place, a nationwide project that helps children who have been sexually or domestically abused get back on their feet. Safe Place spokesman Larry Lovelett said Safe Place, which has a drop-off center, is a service open around the clock for young people when they need help.

Lovelett said children need counselors who can talk to them about their victimization.

“Pimps have PhDs in human nature,” Lovelett said. “They are playing a psychological game with these kids.”

For more information about Stop Child Trafficking Now, visit