By Michal Elseth – The Washington Times
Portland, Ore., is widely featured as a young, green, hip city; it also has gained a reputation as a national hub for child sex trafficking.
State police report encountering three to five trafficking victims a week. Although the Sexual Assault Resource Center, an advocacy group that offers services to Portland-area victims, estimates that it handled 75 cases in 2009, it also says that for every girl in its system 10 more are still being exploited.
“I just believe with my whole heart that people across the community would be appalled if they knew what was going on,” said Sgt. Mike Geiger, who heads Portland’s sexual assault detail.
Portland’s legal commercial sex industry is the biggest per capita in the country, according to a report by researchers at Willamette Law School‘s International Human Rights Clinic. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather once called the city “Pornland.” The city has more strip clubs per capita than glittery Las Vegas, and a tolerant attitude toward sex, both legal and illegal.
Combining those facts, a demand for sex workers, the city’s geography that provides easy access for traffickers, and its reputation as a progressive youth-oriented community attracting runaways creates a toxic brew rivaling the notorious red-light district of Amsterdam.
Victims of domestic minor sex trafficking have been picked up in every major city in the country and in many rural areas as well. Those “walking the track” on Portland’s 82nd Avenue are often children exploited in their hometown.
Linda Smith, president of Shared Hope International, a Vancouver, Wash.-based advocacy group, calls Portland a “mecca” for underage trafficking. Of the domestic minors trafficked every year in the U.S. â€” the FBI estimates 300,000, the majority being runaway or “throwaway” children â€” hundreds are being sexually exploited in a city of 600,000.
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