By Dan Rather / Huffington Post May 19, 2010
Child prostitution has become a national problem in this country. Yes, I know that you have trouble believing that. You don’t want to believe it, so you tend not to.
“Widespread sex trafficking in children?” you may be saying to yourself. “Sure, it happens overseas in places like Thailand and Moldova, and while there may be some of it here there’s not that much of it in our country.”
Based on a months-long investigation and some reportorial digging, I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. We all are. We’re in denial.
In covering news for more than 60 years, I’d like to think that few stories shock me anymore. But this is one of them. We ran across it late last year and the more we dug, the more disturbing it became.
Eighty-year-old men paying a premium to violate teenage girls, sometimes supplied by former drug gangs now into child sex trafficking big time? You’ve got to be kidding. Nope. That’s happening and a lot more along the same lines.
The business is booming. One of the worst areas for it runs along lines running roughly from Seattle to Portland, to San Francisco and Los Angeles, to Las Vegas. But no place in the country is immune.
To pick just one example among many, Portland, Oregon is without doubt one of the nation’s treasures. It has been voted one of the best places to live and work. But according to police, the city and its outlying communities has become a hub for the sexual exploitation of children. In a recent nationwide sting by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Portland ranked second in the country for the number of rescued child prostitutes. And according to Doug Justus, the workhorse sergeant in charge of Portland’s tiny vice detail, many of the children caught up in this are middle class kids from the area.
The girls, sometimes as young as 12, often 13-16, are lured by a “front man” in his mid-to-late teens. He becomes her “boyfriend,” taking her to dinner, buying her nice things, sometimes meeting her parents. The girl eventually moves in with him. Then he says they need money to continue being together. First, she’s enticed to sleep with his friends to pay the rent. Soon she’s turning tricks for what police say is an endless supply of older men willing to pay top money for sex with very young girls. Other times convincing the young adolescent girls to sell themselves happens very quickly.
“It is an out-of-control problem. It’s unbelievable,” say Justus. “I’ve only done this vice-squad job for three years. I’ve been a cop for 29. If you had told me three years ago that a 14-year-old girl would go to a food court, meet a guy, and three hours later be selling herself, I’d ‘a said, no frigging way. It happens every single day, every day.”
It is a very lucrative business, according to Justus. “An average pimp with one kid will make between $800 and $l,000 a day. That’s seven days a week, 30 days a month,” he said. And the pimps usually have a stable of young girls. No wonder so many criminals in the drug trade have turned to it which they have in droves. There’s less chance of being caught, less chance of being prosecuted if caught, lighter sentences — if any — if convicted.
There is, and has been for a long time, a national “War on Drugs.” There isn’t one on child prostitution and what amounts to a slave trade. Only feeble efforts at best.
Justus is frustrated that the Portland police have only two full-time vice investigators, compared to dozens of drug investigators.
“I’m not a politician. I’m just a cop. But if I’m a criminal and I got busted for drugs and I had a regional (drug) task force over here. And there’s another task force over there, and there, and then I know there’s only two vice investigators in the city of Portland, let me think. I think I’ll sell women because what are the chances of me being caught?”
The story we’ve prepared is not about prostitution per se. This is about child abuse. This is also about statutory rape and compelling prostitution among the young. All are difficult to prove. A major reason, according to police, is that it’s extremely difficult to convince a young girl to testify against her pimps and johns. They are afraid.
Sgt. Justus told us the story of a 16-year-old girl whom he convinced to “roll” on her pimp. But before she could testify against him she disappeared — and her pimp walked free. Justus has spent the last year looking for her and fears she’s dead.
How many children are being peddled on the streets of Portland and in other cities and towns, to say nothing of the Internet? (Justus and other law enforcement people say Craigslist, along with other Internet sites, are major factors in the spread of child prostitution.) (Editor’s note: Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster haspreviously highlightedCraigslist’s efforts to fight sex trafficking, including collaborating with law enforcement and instituting moderation strategies for purging ads for illegal sex acts from the site).
Hard to know the real numbers. The most conservative estimates are that at least 100,000 American children are being victimized. Many experts say they believe it’s closer to 300,000 or more.
Whatever the number, it is a national outrage and disgrace. And the problem is growing, not diminishing.
Based on our investigation, we’ve prepared an hour-long program on this problem. We’ve spoken with parents who never dreamed their young daughter would be caught up in underage prostitution. We’ve also interviewed several girls who lived to tell about their experiences of being sold. Tuesday night at 8pm Eastern time on HDNet, via satellite and cable.
Lincoln in 1863, aged 54
|16th President of the United States|
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
|Vice Presidents||Hannibal Hamlin (1861–1865)
Andrew Johnson (1865)
|Preceded by||James Buchanan|
|Succeeded by||Andrew Johnson|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois‘s 7th district
March 4, 1847 – March 3, 1849
|Preceded by||John Henry|
|Succeeded by||Thomas L. Harris|
|Member of the Illinois House of Representatives|
|Born||February 12, 1809
Hodgenville, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||April 15, 1865 (aged 56)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Resting place||Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
|Political party||Whig (1834–1854)
National Union (1864–1865)
|Spouse(s)||Mary Todd (m. 1842; his death 1865)|
|Children||Robert, Edward, Willie, andTad|
|Religion||See: Abraham Lincoln and religion|
|Years of service||3 months
(April 21, 1832 – July 10, 1832)
|Battles/wars||Black Hawk War|
|This article is part of a series about
President of the United States
Assassination and legacy
Abraham Lincoln (i/ˈeɪbrəhæm ˈlɪŋkən/; February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. In doing so, he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the economy.
Born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the western frontier in Kentucky and Indiana. Largely self-educated, he became a lawyer in Illinois, a Whig Party leader, and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, in which he served for twelve years. Elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1846, Lincoln promoted rapid modernization of the economy through banks, tariffs, and railroads. Because he had originally agreed not to run for a second term in Congress, and because his opposition to the Mexican–American War was unpopular among Illinois voters, Lincoln returned to Springfield and resumed his successful law practice. Reentering politics in 1854, he became a leader in building the new Republican Party, which had a statewide majority in Illinois. In 1858, while taking part in a series of highly publicized debates with his opponent and rival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln spoke out against the expansion of slavery, but lost the U.S. Senate race to Douglas.
In 1860, Lincoln secured the Republican Party presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing state. With very little support in the slaveholding states of the South, he swept the North and was elected president in 1860. His victory prompted seven southern slave states to form the Confederate States of America before he moved into the White House – no compromise or reconciliation was found regarding slavery and secession. Subsequently, on April 12, 1861, a Confederate attack on Fort Sumter inspired the North to enthusiastically rally behind the Union in a declaration of war. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats, who called for more compromise, anti-war Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Politically, Lincoln fought back by pitting his opponents against each other, by carefully planned political patronage, and by appealing to the American people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address became an iconic endorsement of the principles of nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.
Lincoln initially concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war. His primary goal was to reunite the nation. He suspended habeas corpus, leading to the controversial ex parte Merryman decision, and he averted potential British intervention in the war by defusing the Trent Affair in late 1861. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including his most successful general, Ulysses S. Grant. He also made major decisions on Union war strategy, including a naval blockade that shut down the South’s normal trade, moves to take control of Kentucky and Tennessee, and using gunboats to gain control of the southern river system. Lincoln tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond; each time a general failed, Lincoln substituted another, until finally Grant succeeded. As the war progressed, his complex moves toward ending slavery included the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; Lincoln used the U.S. Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraged the border states to outlaw slavery, and pushed through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which permanently outlawed slavery.
An exceptionally astute politician deeply involved with power issues in each state, Lincoln reached out to the War Democrats and managed his own re-election campaign in the 1864 presidential election. Anticipating the war’s conclusion, Lincoln pushed a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. On April 14, 1865, five days after the April 9th surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer.