When Jerome Elam was a child, he said, his mother’s boyfriend sold him for sex.
Now an adult, Elam said the public should be on the lookout for children being trafficked because the kids often can’t speak up for themselves.
“There are no chains like the chains of fear and the chains of fear are even stronger than the chains of metal,” Elam said. “When your loved ones are threatened, their lives are threatened … and especially as a child, you’re not believed, not listened to.”
On this weekend’s edition of Colorado State of Mind on Rocky Mountain PBS, Elam said he told ten different people he was being sexually trafficked, including an emergency room doctor.
“But it was the 1970s,” Elam said. “We didn’t have the level of awareness … so no one believed me.”
Elam was one of the speakers at a Denver summit Friday looking for solutions to the problem which the FBI calls one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities, with billions of dollars being made by predators who lure women, girls and boys into forced sexual, drug, or gang criminal activity.
In 2014, in Colorado alone, 88 children were recovered from traffickers, according to statistics provided by a joint law enforcement task force.
The Justice Department estimates 110,000-to-300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked, while the National Center for Missing & Exploited children estimates a trafficker can make up to $250,000 per child per year.
Summit organizer Angela Sandoval Graf, founder of Chosen Advocates Association, is a registered nurse who is researching evidence-based medical care for the survivors of trafficking.
Another nationally recognized expert, Boulder attorney Beth Klein, believes child trafficking is a problem that can be overcome in Colorado – but the effort and funding have to expand.
“The numbers say to me that with zero budget we have been able become almost twice as successful in one year in rescuing or bringing kids off the street, with no government structured involvement,” Klein said.
“If Colorado were to seriously budget for prevention, rehabilitation, police education … we can solve this. This is not a Syrian immigration refugee problem. This is three classrooms of kids here (the numbers recovered in 2014). We can do this but our government must be involved. Our Joint Budget Committee must be allocating funds so our entire police force in the state of Colorado can be educated and have compassion for these kids.”
Said Elam, “Human traffickers are like sharks – 24-7 they’re out on the sgtreets looking for vulnerable children to exploit, and it’s all about the money.”
Elam, Sandoval Graf and Klein appeared on Colorado State of Mind Friday night. Click here to watch the show.
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