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Many Americans found “Taken”, the movie about an American teenage girl who traveled to Europe and sold to sex slavery, a heart wrenching and shocking story. But, once they walked out of the theater, most of them probably thought to themselves that this is far from their reality and moved on. When the media reported Lawrence Taylor’s domestic human trafficking case, many Americans, once again, think to themselves that Taylor was a horrible guy, but that never happened to their own children. Their children are straight A students, the captains of the cheerleading squad, or homecoming queens in their high schools. After all, they are middle class American living in suburb, not a slump of the highest crime rates. But, Phil Ludwig, the former San Diego law enforcement officer and the founder of Teen Rescue, says human trafficking happen to anyone including an average Joe’s all american girl teenage daughter. In fact, he also says that he has witnessed the teenagers with the U.S. citizens are sold to sex slavery in Europe or even Mexico.
About Teen Rescue
Phil Ludwig, the founder of Teen Rescue, was a police officer in San Diego, California. When a drunk driver struck the car he was riding in, he was severely injured enough to mandate his early retirement as a police officer. As a police officer, he has dealt with many runaway children who became vulnerable to child prostitution or sex trafficking. So, he felt the needs to start an organization to protect these teens from being vulnerable to such heinous crimes. Therefore, he started Teen Rescue in 1989.
Q: TELL US ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
Teen Rescue is a free referral service for families in crisis. We provide information and support to parents who are dealing with a troubled teenager. Teen Rescue also operates a private boarding school for struggling teens. While a student is enrolled in our school they receive the needed support and care that the traditional school cannot provide and their parents receive the support and training they need to assist their struggling child. In addition, Teen Rescue operates TRI Counseling which provides counseling services to individuals, couples and/or families. We are also caring for female victims of child trafficking. Through our current residential school structure we can provide a safe haven for these victims. Our structure provides education and training and loving staff to care for them. We also provide counseling to meet the unique hurts and needs of these girls.
Teen Rescue works with Homeland Security, Social Services, and the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition. In the future we anticipate working with ICE, FBI, and local law enforcement agencies.
American teens are trafficked to Europe or Mexico
As a former police officer, Ludwig witnessed human trafficking of American teenagers at first hand. He was personally involved in rescuing eleven teenage girls that had been sold and were about to board a plane for Greece, the major location for child sexual slavery years ago. All of the girls were lured into the modeling trip to Paris, but it was not until after the police rescue that these girls found out they were heading to Greece instead. During the interview on a local radio show, Ludwig also said that each of these victims were going to be sold $20,000 to Greece. By the time the children were about to leave the hotel in La Hoya, California, traffickers already and successfully convinced not only the teen victims themselves but also their parents to send their children on a modeling trips.
In another case, a 12 year old girl with the U.S. citizen was trafficked to Mexico. She was not only beaten and tortured but also socially starved. The trafficker never let the girl be around anyone else. Therefore, after the rescue, the girl was discovered as socially immature as a result of traffickers’ abuse.
American runaway teens trafficked within the U.S.
As many organizations experienced, Ludwig also says that runaway teens are another group of sex trafficking victims in our neighborhood. While the traffickers can make $300,000 per year on a girl, there are 2 million runaway teens who become vulnerable to the traffickers every day. When he personally interviewed FBI to estimate the number of human trafficking victims in the U.S., they said that they recovered 900 children under the age of 18 last year alone. In Sacramento, there were 200 child trafficking cases reported last year, and some victims were as young as 8 years old. But, Ludwig says that the number that FBI gave him was not accounting the number of cases reported by other local law enforcement agencies. Moreover, even if the law enforcement was doing a good job in catching the predators, the reported case represents only 5% or 6% of the entire criminal activity.
What is more, though 83% of the runaway children are victimized, Phil says that the U.S. only has total 50 beds available for these victims nationwide. Therefore, many children are placed in juvenile facilities and treated like criminals rather than victims.
Average Joe’s daughters are not exception:
Parents, get off your children from myspace. Pimps find out all about their parents and family info and threaten victims through internet sites like myspace and use it against your children.
Make sure you know who your children are meeting up with or talking to over the internet.
Parents, be aware
Ludwig further strongly urged the parents to be closely involved in their children’s lives. Just because they do not live in aslump surrounded by high criminal activities, it does not mean that their children are immune from becoming trafficking victims. During the interview, Phil gives an example of an average girl entrapped into pimps’ deception. At one point, he encountered a girl from North Hollywood who got caught up with sex traffickers. She would be an average teenage girl during the day, but was forced into sexual slavery at night for a while. It was not until 3 years later than her parents discovered that she was being exploited.
More on Teen Rescue
Q: HOW DO YOU SEE TEEN RESCUE EVOLVING IN THE FUTURE?
Our desire is to continue caring for these children and this will remain our foremost objective. But we hope to develop investigation teams to discover trafficking operations and rescue teams to free child sex slaves. We also will work to raise public awareness to the needs of these children and their long-term care.
Q: HOW CAN PEOPLE SUPPORT TEEN RESCUE’S INITIATIVE?
Our greatest need is financial resources. The cost for the care of these girls is great and they do not have families that can cover the expenses. Those who wish to make donations may go to our website: www.teenrescue.org. We are also creating a volunteer list for those who would like to help by doing work projects or just spending time with the girls. Interested parties may contact Teen Rescue by e-mailing us at [email protected] [emphasis added]
For further information visit Teen Rescue’s website at www.teenrescue.com/ or call 1-800-494-2200