Clearwater criticized in study on child sex trafficking
It doesn't matter how many National Studies they put together in the US, until victims are treated like victims and the numbers will never be right. One thing for sure when the police bring in a 12 year old child for prostitution we know she's not doing it because she wants to.
A national study cites Clearwater and nine other U.S. cities for not clearly recognizing girls who are victims of sex trafficking, which can lead to the girls not getting proper treatment and care.
The study argues that "child victims of sex trafficking are being arrested for the crime committed against them while their abusers walk free."
Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., presented the report this week at a congressional briefing in Washington to discuss the findings and possible legislation to stop trafficking of minors.
The study, entitled "The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking" focused on 10 cities, including Clearwater, Dallas, Buffalo, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. In 2006, the Department of Justice gave the organization a grant to do the study.
Monique Johnson, communications coordinator at Shared Hope International, said some agencies don't look beyond the surface when dealing with girls who are victims of domestic sex trafficking.
"They shouldn't be looked at as criminals," Johnson said. "They are victims. They [police agencies] are looking at the behavior, not what could be the cause of the behavior.''
She said the Clearwater portion of the study was completed in January 2008 and the study focuses on Clearwater and the Tampa Bay area, she said.
Sometimes victims aren't cooperative, give false information and don't see themselves as victims, Watts said.
For instance, Watts said, a runaway girl falls in love with her boyfriend, who encourages her to have sex for money. But the girl doesn't see herself as a victim, Watts said.
"A lot of times they are in denial," Watts said.
Clearwater police arrested three men this month for having sex with a 12-year-old girl. The agency is looking into it as a possible human trafficking case.