The FBI announced the other day the arrest of over 800 people (let’s be serious here, men) involved in the sexual exploitation of minors and the rescue of 69 children in Operation Cross Country V, an action carried out under the Innocence Lost Initiative. Excellent news, to be sure. Still, one cannot help but see the rescue of 69 children as a single lick on the world’s biggest Tootsie Pop when it is estimated that 300,000 children are currently at risk of sexual exploitation in the US, that a million children are sexually exploited annually worldwide, and that of the estimated 27 million individuals being kept in slavery around the world, 80% are women and children, with 70% of those victims trafficked into the sex industry.
In the FBI’s press release, Shawn Henry, executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch said, “There is no work more important than protecting America’s children and freeing them from the cycle of victimization.” But the FBI’s own budget seems to indicate that there are about 6000 things that are more important than that; in fiscal year 2010, the FBI spent nearly $4.6 billion on terrorism and “national security,” but only $3.1 billion on all domestic issues – including combating sex trafficking – combined.
Between 1968 and 2006, a total of 548 terrorist attacks, causing 4165 injuries and 3227 fatalities, occurred in the US. That’s over the course of almost forty years and averages out to 104 injuries and 80 fatalities annually. If the FBI were to devote equivalent resources to combating every issue that resulted in a similar number of casualties, we’d have a billion dollar task force dedicated to preventing injuries related to re-enactments of scenes from Jackass. Still, of the $306 million he requested from Congress to expand existing programs in fiscal year 2011’s budget proposal, FBI Director Robert Mueller only sought $10.8 million to expand the Innocence Lost Initiative and other programs aimed at protecting children from being raped for profit, while he asked for $25.2 million to supplement the already swollen “anti-terrorism” budget.
According to the 2010 budget, the FBI’s goal was to rescue 150 children from sexual exploitation. Without exploring how gross an idea “150 out of 300,000 is cool with us” is, that leaves 299,850 kids at risk of being raped for profit. We need to seriously rethink the definition of “national security” when hundreds of thousands of women and children are being sexually exploited within the US, and, as a culture, we need to confront the reasons these numbers continue to grow. They continue to grow because the sexualization of children and the objectification and degradation of women in our popular media and porn create demand in the market in women and “barely legal” (and younger) girls for men to pay to rape. I realize that protecting women and children from being sold into sex slavery won’t make Exxon-Mobil or L-3 Communications any money, but the FBI really ought to be spending a few more dollars on programs aimed at doing it anyway and a few less dollars on concocting rationalizations for killing/incarcerating/surveiling more brown people.