Lack of funding the only barrier between child sex slaves and new lives

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by Catherine Holland

GMAZ interview by Kaley O'Kelley

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 1:30 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 23 at 2:06 PM

PHOENIX -- There are children out there -- child sex slaves -- who are begging for help, but they're not always getting it and there's one simple reason for that -- lack of money.

Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children are not problems inherent to just Third World countries. More than 100,000 children are sexually trafficked every year here -- in the U.S.

A single child can be sold 10 to 20 times each day. The average age of kids when they are first exploited is 13.

StreetLightUSA has stepped in to care for many of these children -- these teenage survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation -- but there are still more who are just waiting to start new lives. They just need the tools and support.

StreetLightUSA offers both. The organization's residential programs are key, and while there are such homes -- safe havens -- here in Arizona, the single campus is not enough.

Lea Benson, president and CEO of StreetLightUSA, told 3TV's Kaley O'Kelley she could have filled at least two houses in the past three weeks or so. Several cottages, each with a capacity for eight girls, are ready to go. The only thing lacking is funds to hire staff.

Sex trafficking of American children is something many don't like to talk about -- a "dirty, little secret."

"They consider these kids 'throwaway' kids," Benson said. "What society doesn't realize is these kids are our kids. They're everyday kids. They don't just come from poverty. They come from all walks of life."

With the first campus full and the others not yet open, StreetLightUSA has been forced to turn away girls -- some of whom are being sold by their own families -- coming to the organization for help.

It makes it difficult for the organization to fulfill it's mission to stop child rape.

According to the StreetLightUSA website, the bureau chief of the Los Angeles County Probation Department calls the organizations efforts “…one of the most innovative programs in the country aimed at eradicating child sex slavery through a three tier strategy of Awareness, Prevention and Direct care.”

That awareness, prevention and direct care come at a cost -- one you can help cover. StreetLightUSA is desperate to give these girls a safe place to turn their loves around, but they can't do it without the funding.

To find out how you can make a donation, volunteer or even become an Ambassador for Change, visit StreetLightUSA.org.

StreetLightUSA is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means your contributions are tax deductible.

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