Last year, the International Labor Organization estimated 4.5 million victims were subject to sex trafficking, many of which were young girls. As a mom, the more I learn about this issue, the more it keeps me up at night. I can't help but think of the horror victims face every day, as they live in fear and endure abuse and loneliness. Sex trafficking is not an easy topic to talk about and it's easy to convince yourself that it isn't happening here -- but you would be wrong.
While the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and South Dakota's hunting season are often known for their positive impact on our state's economy and tourism industry, both events pose incredible challenges in combating sex trafficking. People travel to our state under the pretense of attending a special event, but instead travel to sexually exploit victims. Just this week, the Rapid City Police Department, in coordination with state and federal agents, arrested seven men who were seeking sex with underage girls at the Sturgis rally. Unfortunately, this is far too common.
It is estimated as many as 300,000 children are victims of sex trafficking every year in the United States. These victims are often very young -- most girls are first exploited between the ages of 12 and 14, while boys are first abused between 11 and 13. This kind of repulsive activity is tragic and must not be tolerated. In order to help end sex trafficking, we need to do more to crack down on those who create the demand for this exploitive industry.
I have joined a bipartisan effort to combat sex trafficking by introducing H.R. 2805, the End Sex Trafficking Act of 2013. This legislation will help eliminate human trafficking rings by targeting the criminals who solicit or attempt to purchase sexual acts and ensuring they are prosecuted as human traffickers.
Specifically, the End Sex Trafficking Act will amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to make it absolutely clear that both recruiters of underage trafficking victims and the criminals who purchase sexual acts from those victims should be arrested, prosecuted and convicted as sex trafficking offenders. The bill also leverages existing resources by directing federally funded law enforcement task forces that are part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative to also focus on investigating and prosecuting those who solicit children for sex.
Often given the anonymous title of "john," those who choose to harm innocent children should be anything but anonymous. It's time to bring these degenerates out from behind computer screens as they respond to online advertisements for sexual activities, get them off the streets and put them behind bars.
While we are making progress, we must do more and I hope you'll join me in raising awareness about this critical issue. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and with our partners in the Senate, in offering concrete solutions we can take to keep our children safe.