Imagine the day and place where children were abducted from their homes or sold by their relatives into virtual slavery, forced into lives of daily sexual submission, feeding an industry of human chattel and the objects of carnal lust by predators many times their age.
That day was yesterday and the place was Atlanta, and Sacramento, and Minneapolis. And in thousands of cities around the world.
The crime is called the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). The U.S. Department of Justice reports:
CSEC is sexual abuse of a minor for economic gain. It involves physical abuse, pornography, prostitution, and the smuggling of children for unlawful purposes. Although there have been efforts in recent years to better define CSEC, more needs to be done to publicize its existence and develop strategies to reduce its incidence. The number of known cases of CSEC is growing. Children are being kidnapped and sold into forced labor in the illegal sex industry. Some impoverished families are selling their children to traffickers in the hope of giving the children a better life. There are documented reports of children being held captive in basements and other slavelike conditions where they are beaten, malnourished, threatened, and sexually exploited.
In the United States, it is more common for children to be sexually exploited for monetary gain by family and friends. Often, the cycle of exploitation begins when an adult family member or friend sexually abuses a minor child in his or her care. This can escalate to systematic sexual behavior involving multiple children, and to photographing or videotaping sexual abuse and distributing it through the Internet.
The extent of this crisis is difficult to determine, because so much of it happens in the shadows, but one study has found that “Between 244,000 and 325,000 American children and youth are “at risk” each year of becoming victims of sexual exploitation, including as victims of commercial sexual exploitation (e.g., child pornography, juvenile prostitution, and trafficking in children for sexual purposes).”
Just this week a federal crackdown on child prostitution rings across the country has resulted in the recovery of 69 children and the arrest of 884 people, including 99 pimps
Battling the international sex trafficking of children and young women is one area of strong action by Christians in the United States and around the world. One such Christian group tackling this horror is Street GRACE, an advocacy and care organization whose mission is to stop the sexual exploitation of children, starting in Atlanta, one of the worst cities in the world for the sexual exploitation of minors. Approximately 500 children are trafficked for sex in Georgia alone every month, according to Street GRACE.
Filmmaker Brandon McCormick and his Whitestone Pictures has released a 30-minute film on the crisis in Atlanta called The Candy Shop. This film is being made for the Doorpost Film Project with support from 12Stone® Church and Street GRACE.
The film is a fairytale/parable about the child sex trafficking epidemic in the city of Atlanta. The purpose of the film is to not only raise awareness, but also to provoke meaningful action to address the horror. The groups hope to use the film to further a citywide and possibly a nationwide movement.
Here’s the trailer.