Jan 27, 2015 |
Inside Out 325: Safe Haven for Trafficked Minors
“It’s estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked every year,” says our guest Deborah Kuehner. “At least 100,000 US children are sexually exploited every year in America.” Kuehner is the executive director of The Potter’s Hands Foundation, a non-profit foundation hoping to help the youngest victims of sex slavery in south central New York State.
Kuehner became aware of the magnitude of the domestic slave trade of minors for sex when she met with the person directing the human trafficking task force for western New York several years ago.
“She basically said to me, it happens in every community, in every small town, in every large city across our country. Which made me so sad, but at the same time it made me want to do something about it.”
There’s no census to report the precise number of minors who are victims of sex trafficking in the US. We do have a firmer grasp of the number of treatment facilities in the US geared for the needs of minors coming out of sex trafficking, however. When Kuehner first looked into the problem in 2012, treatment facilities in the US were equipped to take a total number of 117 clients. Today, she says, the number is closer to 200.
“These girls need counseling; they need all kinds of things. They have experienced so much trauma that they really have very unique needs for healing.”
Without an adequate number of facilities currently dedicated to the needs of these minors, today some victims are sent to juvenile detention centers. In the states where their status is not protected, they can be charged with prostitution and jailed. Others are placed in foster care.
“They need to know-- and to be able to discover--who they are as a person,” Kuehner says. “They have not had an identity for so long--that has been taken from them—that they just need to be able to figure it out: who they are and who they want to be. And have someone walk along side them and believe that they actually can be someone other than this physical being that has no identity.”
To this end, The Potter’s Hands Foundation is working to build a facility—and a program—in south central New York state to serve 12 local girls pulled from trafficking. Kuehner acknowledges that twelve beds is not a big number—but it’s big enough to give a dozen girls a chance at a fresh start.
* If you know someone who you think is being trafficked, or if you yourself are caught in sex slavery, here’s an important phone number to know: The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
* To learn more about the signs that someone you encounter may be a victim of trafficking, listen to my interview with Deb Kuehner by clicking on the LISTEN or DOWNLOAD icon above.
* Go to the website of The Potter’s Hands Foundation to learn what it hopes to accomplish in south central New York State.