Law & Order: SVU Brings Attention to Sex Trafficking in U.S.

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Global Resistance: Pop Culture review

Dun, Dun.  A familiar sound to any loyal SVU fan.  What any loyal SVU fan would also know is the tendency the show has to focus on actual current events, or real-live criminal cases.

Maybe that is why so many were shocked by Merchandise, an episode which originally aired in 2010.

The episode begins with a young girl running through a market crowd.  She then jumps in front of a moving taxi-cab and dies instantly.  Upon further investigation by the coroner, it was discovered that the girl had been repeatedly starved and beaten.  Death was inevitable; the taxi-cab only sped up the process.

After the stars of the show, Detective Benson and Stabler, looked into the case, they found out the girl had been working on Mission Farms when she had ran away.  All minors working on the farm were required to have a permit, which requires a parent’s signature.

Benson and Stabler sought out after the thirteen year old girl’s parents.  They found out her name was Carly, her mother died from cancer and her father couldn’t find work for years.  There were three other children in the family: a boy close to Carly’s age, and two much younger girls.

Benson and Stabler arrived in a back alley to find and question Carly’s father.  Homeless children ran around the alley while Carly’s father washed off his two younger daughters in the street. They clearly lived out of their run down station wagon.

The father told the two detectives that he sent his daughter, Carly, and oldest son, Micah, to work and make money at Mission Farm once he realized he could no longer provide for the entire family.  The farm representative told him that the children were too young to work in the city, so they would have to move about an hour out of the city limits. He was told Carly and Micah would  be given shelter, clothing, food and a healthy environment to work in.  He was a desperate, mis-guided parent.

In all reality, the children start out working on the farm and then are forced into sex trafficking; never being able to earn their way off the farm.  They are placed further in debt for water, food, clothes, punishment, and more.

Benson and Stabler watch young girls, not much older than eight to ten years old, dressed as prostitutes and solicit themselves on a steak out to find Carly’s older brother.  Micah is brought into custody, revealing the lash marks covering his back from brutal beatings.  He had been arrested at 13 for prostitution.  Fin, another detective on the show, argues with another officer about the fairness in the law which protects children who are exploited from charges.  She informs him that kids only escape charges if they testify against their pimp, however most kids are afraid to testify, or are afraid of being sent home to awful living conditions.

Video footage of Carly’s death showed that Micah pushed his sister into the street in front of the taxi-cab.  When questioned later, Micah told the psychiatrist that  when one kid did something wrong on the farm- they all got beaten. All the children were kept locked in a cellar, and forced to work days and nights while not being allowed to eat even scraps and garbage.  Micah continued, telling the psychiatrist that when girls got pregnant they all ate well.  All three of the babies that these young girls had while Micah was a resident of the farm were taken away, including Carly’s child. Micah was so terrified of the beatings he and the others would receive after his sister’s  escape, so he killed her.  His sister.  His best friend.

Luckily, by the end of the show the couple who ran the “farm” and trafficked the children were caught.

Not all children are so lucky, and not all sex slave pimps get what they deserve.

The show revealed that sex trafficking is a federal offense who 27 million fall victim to globally, and 14 to 18 thousand in the United States. That was in 2010.  This is 2012.

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