Kansas Human Trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth

“Children and youth victimized in human trafficking are not social outcasts or criminals. Rather, they are our neighbors and friends, our nieces and nephews, and our children and grandchildren who have been or who are currently being mentally, physically, and sexually abused. And they don’t need us standing around clicking our ruby red slippers or dreaming of Oz” ~ Karen Countryman-Roswurm

In the first homeless shelter I stayed at we were ‘farmed out’ as labor. Feed a ‘bum’ and you can work him all day. If he complains who will listen? That truly was the case at Hollywood and Vine Recovery Center where I lived off and on in 1995. I screamed real loud about the madness, so did others, but no one would listen to a homeless person. Eventually the place was closed by the FBI. This week in Denver I was educated about “sales crews” using homeless kids as labor and sex trafficking of homeless youth. You can watch that interview here and meet two people stranded homeless by a magazine crew here.

Yesterday I spent an amazing eye-opening day with Wichita Childern’s Home. First they wanted to take me to lunch. Being candid, that often turns out to be the start of a ‘dog and pony show’, but the staff of WHC are beyond brilliant and we spent over an hour talking about cause and effect, and more importantly real solutions to child and youth homelessness.  That was just the start of my education.

I recorded this powerful interview with Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, Therapist/Coordinator of Anti-Sexual Exploitation Service, who is considered an expert on this topic.

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of youth is a very real crisis in America, yet most all of the funding to fight human trafficking goes to organizations that deal with international trafficking.  According to the FBI Wichita is the 5th originating city in America for human trafficking. That means the young girls and boys are ‘recruited’ in Wichita and then transported to other parts of the country to be exploited.

PLEASE watch this powerful interview:

Like it or not we are all effected by this crisis. This is such an important conversation that rarely gets talked about I asked Karen to write a little something to go along with this video.

Kansas Human Trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth

By Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW

Though perhaps shattering the mental image held by many, Kansas is not the picturesque farmland portrayed in the memorable film, The Wizard of Oz.  In fact, though I do believe “There is no place like home,” I bet Dorothy would throw out her ruby red slippers and stay in Oz if she knew how much “home” has changed.  If she knew that the many different faces and forms of sexual exploitation are much more frightening than witches and flying monkeys.

Commercial Sexual Exploitation is “A type of violence against children and youth which may include coerced or forced sexual acts in exchange for, or the promise of, money, drugs, food, clothing, shelter, or other survival needs.  It is a transaction in which the body of a child and/or youth is treated as a commodity” (Countryman-Roswurm, 2005).  Disheartening is the fact that such sexual exploitation, such modern-day form of slavery, is the most heinous, and yet far too often the most invisible form of child abuse in the United States today.  A form of child abuse, targeted towards the most vulnerable, which includes mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

Though it may be easier to think of children only being sold and bought for the purposes of labor or commercial sex acts in international countries, commercial sexual exploitation of US children and youth is “now tied with the illegal arms trade as the second-largest and second-fastest-growing criminal enterprise…both of them trailing only the illicit drug trade” (Winn, 2005, p.1).  Estimates of US children and youth domestically trafficked for the purposes of sex acts range between one and two million (Flowers, 1998; Davis, 1999).  Mid-West communities…Kansas is not free from such child trafficking.

Human trafficking crosses all socio-economic, racial, and religious boundaries and conservative estimates from professionals serving on the Anti-Sexual Exploitation Roundtable for Community Action suggest that 300-400 Wichita youth are at-risk of sexual exploitation each year.  To demonstrate this, of 250 youth interviewed at the Wichita Children’s Home between 2007 and 2008, sixty-seven percent reported they had been sexually assaulted or raped; forty-six percent had been asked to strip, go on a date or provide sexual favors in exchange for food, shelter, money or drugs; and forty percent reported that they had “agreed” or had been forced or manipulated to exchange sexual favors for food, shelter, money or drugs.  Thus, once pursued, 100 of the 250 young people interviewed were forced, frauded, or coerced into sexual exploitation.  This is only including the youth we know about, the children who survived and were lucky enough to make it into safe shelter.

Children and youth victimized in human trafficking are not social outcasts or criminals.  Rather, they are our neighbors and friends, our nieces and nephews, and our children and grandchildren who have been or who are currently being mentally, physically, and sexually abused. And they don’t need us standing around clicking our ruby red slippers or dreaming of Oz.  Combating all forms of human trafficking, whether labor or sexual exploitation, takes a collaborative multi-disciplinary approach which bridges the gap between direct practice, research, and policy.  This includes providing public awareness and professional training, prevention services, early identification and intervention services, survivor protection and human rights advocacy, perpetrator prosecution, and recovery services, while at the same time, working to reduce the demand that encourages sexual exploitation to occur in the first place.

Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, is a Therapist/Anti-Sexual Exploitation Services Coordinator with the Wichita Children’s Home and the Founder/Coordinator of the Anti-Sexual Exploitation Roundtable for Community Action.

  • This is one of the most “Real” blogs I've seen in hopes of how one can change from being on the street to becoming a PhD. Karen, you are truely an inspiration & I've not even met you! You are a shining example of what this world NEEDS… a LOVE REVOLUTION!

    Thank you for all you are doing to provide this oppurtunity to HIS children so they may heal from all the evil abuse!

    Love & Hugs to you from another “survivor”,
    ~Joni Lee

  • Paul

    It is great that you are raising awareness and exposing this crime against humanity.

  • Mark – you are modeling via this blog – what school should be. thank you for helping us notice.

    thank you for the insight Karen.

  • Outreach7

    Thank you for your love and support! Putting yourself “out there” isn't easy so your Hugs are much appreciated!

    Karen

  • At about the 18-minute mark, Karen and Mark discuss Karen's story – she never made it past the 9th grade and is now finishing up her PhD. I would LOVE for more formerly homeless individuals to talk about the people and events responsible for them getting OUT of their homeless situation. I think that information would provide insights about what needs to happen to elevate people out of their situations and give people a road map to helping solve the problem – beyond giving a couple bucks or handing out a PB&J (which are still important!). Both your stories give me hope that we really can help end this epidemic.

  • Yogesh

    Child abuse and trafficking are global issues now. the efforts and measures taken are not enough trafficking in South Asia where thousand of young girls and boys are sold into modern-day slavery.18 year old girl who was trafficked from Nepal to a brothel in Pune ; Afsana, a 16 year old who was trafficked from her village in Bangladesh into forced domestic servitude in Kolkata;and many other such stories provides a compelling look into this dark, inhuman, and exploitative world and shows how each one of us can help to prevent modern-day slavery. watch few of these http://www.cultureunplugged.com/play/479

  • Pingback: The Domestic Labor and Sex Trafficking of Homeless Youth | Invisible People()

  • knowledge

    Satan is the culprit and if you struggled with concepts of good and evil here is the obvious answer there is evil.

  • Rose Dolan

    Odear God! Those poor little girl’s grown men treading like they do they shuld be in jail and guve the key away

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