Sex Trafficking's Black and Brown Victims

Young girls of color are forced into sex slavery with no way out.

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Indeed, according to the most recent FBI report on the issue, 83 percent of victims of confirmed sex-trafficking cases were identified as U.S. citizens. Forty percent of the victims and 62 percent of the suspected perpetrators were black.

In some places, the demographic breakdown is even more dramatic, like in Houston. The jurisdiction of panel host Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee is what she calls a "hub" of sexual slavery. According to panelist Ann Johnson, Harris County, Texas, prosecutor and human trafficking specialist, the breakdown of victims there is "roughly 55 African American, 25 Hispanic and 20 Caucasian."

In individual cases, abuse and poverty at home may combine to make girls -- often runaways -- vulnerable to the men who see them as human capital, says Johnson. Just as often, says Saadar Sar, they're victimized when they age out of the foster care system and the state no longer keeps track.

In other words, as they're held against their will, often subjected to torture, earning money for pimps through forced sex, no one is going to come looking for them.

There's an even more insidious factor that compounds all of that. It's one that makes the victims feel as though seeking help would be futile, according to CdeBaca. "It's the notion that crime in the Hispanic community, in the black community, is not to be taken as seriously. Because that's not where law enforcement officers go, that's where the traffickers decide to go."

Those issues, plus a long-standing commitment by the Congressional Black Caucus to be a voice on Capitol Hill for the vulnerable anywhere, are why Jackson-Lee says putting a stop to human trafficking is a natural part of the mission of the group of African-American elected officials.

"I want to be clear that many of modern-day slavery involves sex, and that it's just as devastating as the slavery we're more familiar with," she told The Root.

On March 8, 2013, President Obama signed legislation that renewed the nation's most important tool to fight modern-day slavery, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Lee says it's not enough.

"We need specific legislation -- more local and state law enforcement to be alert to issues of human trafficking in states and local jurisdictions. We need more trained law enforcement so that we can prevent this," she said.