In the dead of night they emerge -- young girls hoping to make some money. They leave home looking for a better life. Instead, they wind up on the streets of major cities around the world, including the United States. More than 700,000 people are trafficked worldwide every year.
Journalist and author Patricia McCormick conducted field research on sex trafficking in Nepal and India, and wrote the novel "Sold" that draws on her research. She was shocked at how many times young girls were sold into prostitution by their own, mostly male relatives as a desperate attempt to get out of poverty.
Once in the brothels, madams often give girls birth control or force them to have abortions. Sometimes, the madams allow girls to get pregnant and raise their children in the brothel, which strengthens their ties to "the life" and makes it even harder for them to leave.
While teen trafficking in the United States may not always be as horrific as it is in Nepal in India, the concept behind it remains the same: young, vulnerable girls exploited by people they trust. McCormick offers tips to parents on how they can prevent their daughters from falling victim to teen trafficking.
Pay attention to any problems with self-esteem. Vulnerable kids are the targets of predators.
Take all runaway threats seriously. The FBI says that within 48 hours, runaways will be approached by someone looking to exploit them sexually.
Educate kids about the problem. The danger isn't being nabbed or abducted off the street; the real danger is the charmer who will lure them away with false promises. If they are aware of the dangers out there, they won't be so easily fooled.
McCormick's "Sold" can help inform girls about teen trafficking. The novel, written for young adults, chronicles the experience of a girl from Nepal sold into sexual slavery.
McCormick hopes the book will raise the consciusness of girls in America and help galvanize them into action.
A Tin Roof
One more rainy season and our roof will be gone, says Ama.
My mother is standing on a log ladder, inspecting the thatch, and I am on the ground, handing the laundry up to her so it can bake dry in the afternoon sun. There are no clouds in sight. No hint of rain, no chance of it, for weeks.
There is no use in telling Ama this, though. She is looking down the mountain at the rice terraces that descend, step by step, to the village below, at the neighbors' tin roofs winking cruelly back at her.
A tin roof means that the family has a father who doesn't gamble away the landlord's money playing cards in the tea shop. A tin roof means the family has a son working at the brick kiln in the city. A tin roof means that when the rains come, the fire stays lit and the baby stays healthy.
"Let me go to the city," I say. "I can work for a rich family like Gita does, and send my wages home to you."
Ama strokes my cheek, the skin of her work-worn hand as rough as the tongue of a newborn goat. "Lakshmi, my child," she says. "You must stay in school, no matter what your stepfather says."
Lately, I want to tell her, my stepfather looks at me the same way he looks at the cucumbers I'm growing in front of our hut. He flicks the ash from his cigarette and squints. "You had better get a good price for them," he says.
When he looks, he sees cigarettes and rice beer, a new vest for himself.
I see a tin roof.