This is a sobering New York Times article on Asian American youth in Oakland who are being lured and forced into the sex trade, and the organizations, like Asian Health Services, that are trying to help these young girls. It's seriously disturbing, and the numbers are staggering: In Oakland, Redefining Sex Trade Workers as Abuse Victims.
Once viewed as criminals and dispatched to juvenile centers, where treatment was rare, sexually exploited youths are increasingly seen as victims of child abuse, with a new focus on early intervention and counseling. There is growing recognition that doctors can be first responders, intervening before long years of exploitation and abuse can take an even greater toll.According to the article, a stable of four girls can earn over $600,000 a year in tax-free income for a pimp. That kind of money motivates abusers to recruit and kidnap girls from the streets and even from their own families. It's a sick spiral of exploitation that gets very little press.
In Oakland, a handful of organizations that grew out of Asian Health Services have developed new programs for Southeast Asian minors that "take into account the complex culture of foreign-born parents and their American-born children," said Dr. Sharon Cooper, a forensic pediatrician and child abuse expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American-born children are sold for sex each year. The escalating numbers have prompted national initiatives by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, and new or pending legislation in more than a dozen states, most recently Georgia, which enacted a toughened human trafficking law this month.
The Oakland health clinic is confronting an underground within an underground — the demand for Asian-American girls, with Cambodian-Americans among the most vulnerable. Many immigrant Cambodian parents struggle with poverty compounded by the experience of genocide and its traumatic aftermath, depression. The emotional fallout is ricocheting through generations.
To learn more about Asian Health Services and the work they're doing in Oakland to serve the refugee Asian community, go to the organization's website here.