Child Sex Trafficking Growing in the U.S.: 'I Got My Childhood Taken From Me'

"This is a new and emerging phenomenon. Ten years ago, there were not the same disturbing stories of traffickers seeking out and preying on girl runaways within 48 hours after they have left home," Saada Saar wrote in the Huffington Post.

"Why is this happening? There is the Internet, which has created an easy and accessible venue for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. As a result, young girls are the new commodities that traffickers and gangs are selling. And, there isn't a culture of crime and punishment for selling girls as there is for selling illegal drugs," she wrote.

Asia, who was lured into the trade at the age of 18, says it was eerie how well her pimp knew what she was looking for.

"It's like he knew I was vulnerable, and he was looking for people like me," she told ABC News. "He told me constantly he would take care of me, it wasn't going to be like this. ... It was like false promises but he made it sound so good. That's what he does, he was an expert at it."

Sex Trafficking Becoming Growing Problem in U.S.

The now 20-year-old who is studying criminal justice said her sole mission back then was to get through the day. Even when she was sick or stricken with infection, she was forced to have sex, often for up to 10 hours a day with 10 different men.

"I feel like all I was trying to do was survive, get away from home, just be happy, but it was never like that," said Asia, who was raised by her grandmother.

Asia said that once she was part of the sex trade, she didn't feel she had anyone to turn to. Like M.S., she didn't want to go back to her family out of shame and fear, and she didn't feel safe outside the vicinity of the hotels she lived in.

"It was like I was in a totally different world in society," Asia recalls. "Like when we would go out to eat, I felt everyone knew who I was and what I did and there was embarrassment. ... Being outside, you feel vulnerable."

Both M.S. and Asia said they were arrested and thrown into jail, and that the police treated them like criminals, even when they knew they were minors. Often times, police officers solicited their services, the girls said, or they had relationships with pimps.

"They would just send me to jail and keep me here for like a couple of months, then they'd release me thinking everything's good," M.S. said. "I was scared to run to the police or cops or something because you know... I don't think they'd really listen. They try to set up a date with you knowing that you were a minor. They didn't care."

Under U.S. law, human traffickers can get life in prison if convicted. But many of these traffickers are never caught. Both M.S. and Asia said their perpetrators are still roaming free.

Government officials say a key problem is lack of coordination between states and agencies, but that the government is looking at the root causes and how they can be eliminated.

Francey Hakes, the Justice Department's national coordinator for child exploitation prevention, said Tuesday the agency has arrested and charged hundreds of people with sexual exploitation and that it was doing more to address sex crimes against children.

"This is modern day slavery at its worst, and it's a winnable war," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who sponsored a law targeting sex trafficking in the House.

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