The FBI said its Operation Cross Country had rescued 105 sexually exploited children who were victims of human trafficking. For some, says the Phhiladelphia Inquirer, “rescue” is a matter of interpretation. In the case of at least one local teenager, almost immediately after she was freed from her traffickers, she was charged with prostitution and placed in a juvenile detention facility. “Can we treat her as a 100 percent victim right now? I can’t say that until an investigation is done,” said Bensalem Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran.
The teenager’s situation reflects a dilemma for the freed children: They are considered victims, yet often are charged with a crime and jailed. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 children in the U.S. are exploited through prostitution every year. FBI victim specialists work to get youngsters the help they may need, but, said the FBI’s Jason Pack, “the infrastructure to support the range of services just isn’t there in many places.”