The high number of fatalities for teen drivers across America is incredibly concerning. But in Michigan, teens are actually significantly more likely to be trafficked into the commercial sex industry than killed in a car crash. That's because child sex trafficking is growing at an alarming rate across the state. In May, 141 underage Michigan girls were forced into prostitution. That's a 20% increase from the number of children victimized in the commercial sex industry the previous February. And it's hundreds of times higher than the annual teen auto fatality or suicide rate, as points of comparison. Across the state, advocates are becoming concerned at just how common prostitution is becoming for young girls. And the victims, for the most part, aren't smuggled in from foreign countries or even from other states. They are local girls, pimped by local pimps and bought by local men.
According to Rebbecca McDonald, president of Women at Risk International in Michigan, young girls are lured into the industry slowly. Pimps will target teens who are sexually active and entice them with offers of cash, designer clothes, and other cool stuff. What starts out as a one-time occurrence to get a great pair of jeans or a crisp $100 bill soon spirals out of control for kids. And before they know it, they're being turned out on the street or advertised online by their pimp, who keeps the money they earn.
Theresa Flores knows how that spiral works, since she survived it when she was just 15. Now, she has written a book about her experience and human trafficking in the U.S. called The Slave Across the Street. She also works to help other young girls who are trapped in prostitution find a way out. And sadly, more and more girls in Michigan need her help, as the teen sex trafficking rate continues to grow, dwarfing other tragedies like teen auto fatalities.
The statistics in Michigan are startling, and prove child sex trafficking isn't a rare occurrence confined to major metropolises. It's happening all over America, and it's happening ofte