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'Sex and money: A national search for human worth'



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October 16, 2013 - Ortonville- Anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 children are forced into the sex trade every year in the United States, according to an estimate by ECPAT International.

The average age of a prostitute when they enter the sex trade is 13-years-old, said Kathy Maitland, Southeast Michigan Director of the Michigan Abolitionist Project.

"It's child abuse," she said. "They are often forced into a life of sex servitude, and we arrest them when they are 18, 19, 20-years-old, when they are actually victims."

Maitland will present "Sex and Money: A national search for human worth," a movie to bring awareness to sex trafficking, at 6 p.m., Oct. 27, at Ortonville United Methodist Church, 93 Church St. The public is welcome. The 45-minute documentary follows a group of journalists as they travel across the U.S. seeking to understand how the sexual exploitation of children has become the nation's fastest growing form of organized crime and what can be done to stop it. Following the movie, Maitland will present information on addressing slavery in Michigan and outline what the community can do to prevent and address this issue in the community. The event is free.

Maitland became involved with the Michigan Abolitionist Project in 2012 after being educated on the issue of human trafficking, which she defines as modern day slavery— when someone is held against their will, either by force, coercion, fraud or being tricked. The most vulnerable population is children, often runaways who are approached by a pimp within 48 hours of being on the street. Foster care children who have aged out of the system without ever being adopted are another vulnerable population, she noted.

"A high percentage of those children wind up in the sex industry," said Maitland. "Those with low-self-esteem, girls struggling with their self-image, they want attention."

Predators will often approach girls at the mall or schools and spend time building a relationship with them, she continued. They may offer their victims clothing or food, or a place to stay.

"Everything is wonderful for a couple weeks and then the climate changes," Maitland said. "One girl we are working with, she is in her 20s, and she was in traffic for 6 years, she was tricked in her late teens."

The girls grow into women who remain in bondage for many of the same reasons a woman stays when her husband or boyfriend beats her— they believe they can't leave. Their abuser has threatened them and/or their children. Another problem facing women forced into trafficking is not having a safe place to go.

Maitland said the way to combat human trafficking is through awareness, which will help bring change through legislation and prevention programs aimed at children.

"The community needs to understand the problem and do something about it," she said. "What the community can do is become aware of the issue. It is in all of our communities. There are women, girls, children abused in pornography and prostitution. Become aware that it is happening in our backyard... From that comes the cultural change that is needed to change our laws and society from accepting things like pornography and prostitution as victimless crimes."

For more information, call 248-627-3125 or visit

michiganabolitionistproject.org.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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