WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI says it has rescued 105 children who were forced into prostitution in the United States and arrested 150 people it described as pimps and others in a series of raids in 76 American cities.
One child was rescued, and one pimp was arrested, in Kansas City.
The campaign, known as "Operation Cross Country," was the largest of its type and conducted under the FBI's "Innocence Lost" initiative. The assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division, Ron Hosko, said that child prostitution remains what he called a "persistent threat" to children across America.
The FBI said the campaign has resulted in rescuing 2,700 children since 2003.
The raid came as good news to one local charity which works to help victims of sex trafficking.
Veronica's Voice is a non-profit seeking to help both child and adult victims of sex exploitation. The organization says one of its gals is
Director Kristy Childs said it's difficult to measure exactly how big the problem of sex trafficking is in the Kansas City metro. However, she said it is a problem.
Last year, Veronica's Voice fielded 402 crisis calls from victims of sex trafficking. They provided emergency shelter for 60 people and since implementing a youth specific program, have also provided services for 16 youth.
Childs said she was glad to hear 105 children were rescued in the FBI sting. She said now it is important those victims receive proper trauma help to deal with their experiences.
Childs described a variety of reasons why children could end up becoming involved in sex trafficking.
"Child abuse can run a child out of their home. Children can be violated in such a way where they see their body as a value be it that using their body keeps them from being beaten or using their body keeps them being fed within their home system," Childs said describing one way a child could end up being exploited.
Childs said there are other reasons children become involved in sex trafficking as well.
"It also could be they are just physically abused and they're running away from a physically and emotionally abusive home and then they're out on the street. And to survive, there are plenty of men who will offer food and shelter," Childs stated.
Childs expressed concern about the current system, which she believes focuses on prosecutions and no helping victims.
"It's not about getting cases against pimps because while that can happen and that can be a good thing, we need to be focused on the people who are having the harm done to them and providing them care," Childs said.
Childs also hopes people understand that these exploited children then grow into adult victims. She said she believes the only way to stop exploitation is to cut off the demand for services.
Veronica's Voice also offers a treatment program for "johns" and last year treated 23 men.
The organization is also hosting a conference about this issue in October. You can read more about it on their website by clicking here: http://www.veronicasvoice.org/