Stolen Innocence: Inside the Shady World of Child Sex Tourism

Effects of the brutal global industry are felt right here in U.S. courtrooms.

ByABC News
July 17, 2007, 10:54 AM

July 17, 2007 — -- The tales of child victims of the sex tourism overseas are heartbreaking and disturbing, and as the international industry booms its legal effects are being felt right here in the United States.

In fact, North America accounts for a quarter of all child sex tourism around the globe, according to humanitarian experts.

This week a New Jersey millionaire goes on trial for allegedly recruiting destitute boys for sex meetings abroad, and a New York sex tour operator will be sentenced Wednesday to up to seven years in prison for promoting prostitution.

The multimillion dollar child sex tourism industry is supported by foreigners who travel to developing countries where widespread poverty and corrupt law enforcement foster an illicit environment in which they can have sex with children as young as 5 for as little as $5, often with little recourse, said Geoffrey Keele, a child protection spokesperson at UNICEF, the world's largest child care organization.

According to Department of Justice figures, child prostitutes serve between two and 30 clients per week, totaling 100 to 1,500 sex clients per child, per year.

But some sex tourists claim that far from abusing the children, they are helping to support them.

ABC News took a look into the shadowy world of desire and exploitation that authorities say victimizes about 2 million children every year.

Tapping into child sex tourism is about as easy as going online, booking a flight and taking a taxi, said child protection experts.

Before even setting foot on foreign soil, "tourists" can surf the Web for everything they need to know about having sex with a child abroad.

Pedophiles, which make up a large group of the sex tourists that exploit children, mainly under 12, keep track of news articles that mention the locations of kids and schools in particularly poor areas. They then share their stories and plan sex tours, said Carol Smolenski, the executive director at ECPAT-USA, the U.S. branch of an international network that combats child sex tourism.

"This is about the purchase of child's body as a commodity, and the Internet just makes the sale even easier," she said.

Web sites provide pornographic accounts written by experienced child sex tourists and tour operators, including specific information about how to access a child prostitute and how much to spend.