Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
- Activist Jaco Booyens said sex-trafficking in the U.S. is a more prevalent issue than most people realize.
- Booyens is an activist and filmmaker who has fought child sex-trafficking since 2001 through his organization SHAREtogether.
- Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, charged with sex-trafficking and conspiracy, died Saturday in an apparent suicide.
Anti-trafficking activist Jaco Booyens said President Donald Trump has done more to fight child sex-trafficking than any other world leader, but the United States has a long way to go in protecting American youth.
Sex-trafficking has been a major issue recently as financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged with sex-trafficking and conspiracy, died Saturday in his Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial. Alleged victims are coming out with their stories and lawsuits against his estate.
Booyens is the founder of SHAREtogether, a non-profit that fights child sex-trafficking around the world. He is also the president and CEO of film company After Eden Pictures, and director of the movie “8 Days,” which tells the story of a young girl who fell victim to trafficking. Booyens has been part of the effort to conquer sex-trafficking since 2001, he said.
“Historically, U.S. children are the ones who are forgotten,” he told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The American child has been left behind for so many different reasons. People don’t want to acknowledge such evil in the United States.”
President Donald Trump has “unequivocally” done more to help end sex-trafficking in the United States than any other president, Booyens said.
“In the free world, there is no leader that has taken this kind of initiative,” he said.
Child Sex-Trafficking Is Under-Resourced
U.S. law enforcement is under-resourced, Booyens said, and there are even states where the special task force for sex-trafficking is one person. In states where this is the case, he said authorities lean on local police departments to deal with trafficking. He said he does not believe police departments, though they do their best, have the manpower or resources to tackle this massive problem.
“It is all races, all genders, all zip codes, all economic classes,” he said.
Human trafficking is handled by the Department of Labor, Booyens said, and he would like to see this moved to a different federal agency, adding that DOL has limited resources for child sex-trafficking.
DOL did not respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.
“It should be under the Justice Department or some other department where it can have its own earmark funds appropriated, support for local tax forces, and divisions within the FBI,” Booyens said.
He also said there needs to be more support from the general public on these issues.
“Pay attention, report everything you see,” he said. “Get actively involved.”
He suggested the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos should have a child sex-trafficking training program that teaches children how to conduct themselves on social media, including what kind of profile they are presenting to potential traffickers. The DOE did not yet respond to a request for comment on the matter.
“There needs to be awareness so children don’t fall into the trap,” Booyens said. “Then there needs to be a serious effort to rescue those already trafficked.”
Child Sex-Trafficking Happens In Ways The Public Might Not Expect
Most people think of child sex-trafficking as an incident where the child is kidnapped, Booyens said, and while this is sometimes the case, children become victims in other ways.
The foster care system is a disaster, Booyens said, a disaster that predators and traffickers understand and take full advantage of.
The largest rising trend, Booyens said, is family members trafficking their own children. He described an anonymous 13-year-old American girl who was rescued from sex-trafficking while living at home, where her father was allegedly trafficking her. The school principal and community members, he said, were frequent customers.
“She would see between 10 and 15 customers a day,” Booyens said. “Her father had convinced her this was how she was going to pay for college.”
“You may say, ‘This is ridiculous,’” he added. “But it is not. A child is desperate for attention. A child takes guidance.”
Other children are lured from their homes by predators, as Booyens portrayed in his film “8 Days.”
The film tells the story of a California teenager who spoke regularly online about not being allowed to go out of her house often. She snuck out one night to attend a party with a boy — but unbeknownst to her, that boy had been approached by a trafficker.
“Trafficker says, ‘Bring more girls to the party,’ pays the kid $200,” Booyens explained. When it was time for her to go home, she received a ride from the awaiting traffickers. Though she was rescued within eight days, she was savagely abused by 52 men in three different states, Booyens said.
He added that it was shocking she was found so quickly.
The youngest child Booyens has seen rescued was only 2 years old, he said.
“It took three months of reproductive surgery to reconstruct the child’s female organs,” Booyens said. “She will never have children. She will never be able to go the bathroom normally.”
Sexualization Of Women Is At The Heart Of This, Booyens Says
The United States has broken women down into sexual objects, Booyens said. The sex-trafficking activist blames this on a number of factors, but especially on Hollywood, pornography and social media.
“Women in the U.S. feel that if they do not watch porn with their husbands or partners they will be rejected,” he said, adding, “Every single social media network is being used to sex-traffick — and they hide behind the First Amendment.”
“This issue is not a political issue,” Booyens said. “This issue is about children, the untouchables. But there are groups trying to legalize pedophilia — fighting very hard to bring the age of consent to 10 years old. Why 10 and not 14? They want pre-puberty! Ninety percent of your buyers are men. They want prepuberty girls and boys.”
Booyens wants Americans and lawmakers to take a serious look at the laws surrounding sex-trafficking in the country.
“There is work to be done,” he said. “Draw the line. Hold those who pay for sex with children in this country accountable.”
“If we do not go after them, throw the book at them, and really make an example of them, there is no fear.”
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