When I was 13, I was settling into middle school, making new friends, crushing on boys and enjoying sleepovers. I was still at that ripe age of innocence before high school drama, relationship hangups and rebellion kicked in.
I see now that I was fortunate to have all of these experiences, the good and the bad.
Sadly, for some girls, 13 is the average age of entry into “prostitution” in the US. Only these girls aren’t prostitutes, they’re minors and they are victims of the sex trade, even if they don’t always appear that way on the surface.
Araminta Freedom Initiative, a Baltimore based nonprofit with a mission to end Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in Baltimore, describes it this way:
“Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) is the commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders. It is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act” where the person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under the age of 18 years. The age of the victim is the critical issue — there is no requirement to prove force, fraud, or coercion was used to secure the victim’s actions.”
You may or may not be aware, but DMST is a problem here in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s present in the Inner Harbor hotels. It’s present near our Ravens Stadium. It’s present near our homeless shelters, foster homes, playgrounds and schools. If you weren’t aware before, now is your chance.
Araminta Freedom Initiative is partnering with the Governor’s office to put on Unchained Conference: Empowering Our Community to Abolish Modern Day Slavery. The conference is open to the public and will address how members of the community can actively engage in the mission to end child sex trafficking in our region.
To register, visit their website and check out the additional details. I will be volunteering and I highly recommend you check it out to see how you could make a difference and support our mission in Baltimore.
Sources: Araminta, Polaris Project
Photo source: theheatmag.com
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