(CNN) – “Operation Cross Country X,” The FBI says this operation exposes the grim fact that children are being sold for sex in the US, sometimes by their own parents.
Child sex-trafficking knows no borders. Its victims often run from one horror. Only to be ensnared in another. The United States FBI provided a survivor’s account on its website. She says she was abused by her father until she was 15. Then tricked by a pimp into prostitution.
Anonymous Victim said, “I was 17 at the time when I met him. And I got in the adult entertainment business because of the fact that he asked me about it. And he told me the money would be used towards the modeling. And I believed him I really thought this was a real legit thing. And somehow I found myself into this dirty game that I really believed it was a real job of modeling. And it wasn’t. He beat me. He had me in hotel rooms by myself for weeks. I’d go hungry because I wouldn’t obey what he wanted me to do. It’s a trap. Once you’re there, it’s hard to get out of. It’s really hard.”
It’s a story the CNN freedom project has heard many times and one the FBI knows all too well. In just 4 days, the FBI says they made hundreds of arrest and rescued 82 teens.
Bernie Riedel, FBI, Supervisory Special Agent said, “We find that the average age of the minors we do recover is around 15-16 years old. There’s been as young as 9 but that’s not the norm. Normally between 12-17. The pimps have a great deal of influence over these females. Whether it’s physical and emotional abuse. These are a lot of girls that come from families or just a lot of times in a broken situation whether it be victims of sexual assault previously in their home life or physical abuse, and the pimp steps into that.”
Authorities call it “operation cross country x”. Its in its 10th year and includes law enforcement in the United States, Canada, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Riedel, “This is part of the overall initiative by the FBI which is the innocence lost initiative to address sexual exploitation of children throughout the US as well as throughout the world.”
Many of the teens don’t realize they are victims. Riedel, “The recruitment process by the pimps. The people that, the subjects of these cases. They have a very, they really have a very powerful influence physically and psychologically. They might entice the girls to come into that life through the promise of money, love whether as a boyfriend or a father figure if a girl tries to get out, that’s when the physical abuse starts.
Anonymous Victim, “I have learned I was a victim. At the time, I didn’t believe I was because I was like, hey, I volunteered. But at the end of the day, I didn’t volunteer. It was something I was tricked into, thinking I could turn out to be a model”
For victims being exploited, there is hope. Anonymous Victim, “If you’re a victim and you went through this, there is justice for you, definitely. Not only is there justice for you, you don’t have to be scared anymore once you elaborate and go to the police, because they will be arrested. To where it’s neat, you can breathe. I can breathe and say I can finally put him behind me.”