IMAGINE Magazine Autumn 2015 Volume 1 Number 1 - Page 29

Co u r ag e o u s Co n v e r s at i o n Sex-Trafficking of Children… in Small Town USA? By Lori Rubenstein I f you are like me, you wish and pray for world peace. Yet, there are times you are thrown totally off your game. In other words, the outside world gets the better of you and your inner peace goes out the window. That is what happened to me when I found out that children were getting “trafficked” and used for sex in my small community in Arizona. I’m not a big city person. I live in a rural community, but I recently read an article that exposed eight local men who were arrested for knowingly purchasing sex with minors. How can that be? I’m smart enough to know intellectually that it doesn’t just happen in Thailand or India. My mind can understand some of it goes on in places like LA, Phoenix, New York, Chicago, Miami…but in the sparsely populated Yavapai County of Northern Arizona? A little over a year ago I heard about Shared Hope International. The organization focuses on raising awareness and prevention of the sex trafficking of children, restoring the emotional and physical health of child victims, and eradicating demands for sex from children. It also works on legislation and helps bring crimes to justice. I discovered that while children, particularly pre-teens and teenagers, were being arrested for the “crime of prostitution” even a few years ago, we now understand that these children are the victims, and that the real criminals are the users and traffickers of children. While the government estimates that between 15,000 to 17,000 foreign victims are trafficked into the United States every year to be used in forced labor or sex, the FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that there are 100,000 to 300,000 American children sexually trafficked within the U.S. every year. Additionally, the average age of entry is 12-14 years of age! We all know stories and issues that pull at our heartstrings because of the violence that is so pervasive in our world. Truly, it’s difficult for me at times to stay focused on my personal objectives of inner peace and world peace. However, I find it is easier when I do take a stand on things like sex trafficking of children and do something about it. This is what led me to become an Ambassador for Shared Hope International and to work with the Sedona International City of Pea