The seedy underground of child sex trafficking

IN A seedy hotel room in Alexandra, Virginia, on October 6, a sordid meeting took place.

The meeting was part of an underground network where children — in this case as young as 12 — are forced to sell themselves for sex. Most likely, as Crystal Nosal, Senior Public Information Officer for the Alexandria Police Department explains, they’ve run away from an abusive home environment, and have been drawn into a situation that will spiral into a life of drugs and prostitution.

They probably met online first, a seemingly chance encounter for the victim, but a carefully staged trap for the perpetrator. He or she creates a supposedly loving and caring relationship with the victim in order to establish trust. It is this manipulative relationship that, if it works, could ensure the youth will remain loyal to the exploiter even in the face of severe victimisation.

“With the young girls, you promise them heaven, they’ll follow you to hell,” Harvey Washington, a pimp who served a four-year sentence in Arizona in 2005 for “pandering a 17-year-old and three adult prostitutes”, told the New York Times.

“It all depends on her being so love-drunk off of me that she will do anything for me.”

On this particular October day, a predator is awaiting his bait. He’s young, and dressed in head-to-toe black, complete with cap.

But what he doesn’t know is the FBI is waiting to strike.

Investigators had staged the undercover sting, one of many across, hotels, casinos, even truck stops, where pimps, prostitutes and their customers congregate.