Sex trafficking is a problem around the world. And on Wednesday, the problem hit right here at home.
Residents read in horror Wednesday about an FBI operation that freed a young girl from an alleged sex trafficker right here on our home island.
While details of the criminal case remain under wraps, federal authorities said Operation Independence Day resulted in a federal case “against a 33-year-old man who allegedly trafficked a minor girl to a 48-year-old man in exchange for cash and drugs,” the FBI stated on its website.
The girl was freed, and the matter remains under investigation.
The operation on Guam in early July was part of a nationwide sweep for sex traffickers that included the identification and recovery of more than 100 juvenile victims of sex trafficking.
We hope no more children will be traded for cash and drugs.
This case is an example of how bad the drug problem has gotten on Guam when people are willing to trade the innocence of a young child for some cash and drugs.
Sex traffickers are not the only predators who see our children as prey.
There have been too many instances in which children were sexually assaulted, raped and threatened with harm if they spoke out about the abuse within their home or to other people who are supposed to protect them.
Blood relatives, a teacher and a university professor have been charged with or convicted of sexual abuse of children who are minors or students under their care. We have seen more than 200 complaints filed by men and women who were young children decades ago when they were allegedly abused by priests.
In a recent case, a former pastor was sentenced to 14 months in prison for sexually touching a teen member of his church who suffered from depression and contemplated taking her own life. The prosecutor in the case said this pastor even used his pulpit to criticize the victim and her family for speaking out.
Husbands, grandfathers, cousins, uncles and close family friends of victims have been hauled off to prison for sexual abuse of children.
When will these crimes against our children stop?
Our community needs to be more vigilant about changes in behavior among children. School nurses, school counselors, teachers and neighbors have been doing their part in reporting red flags as they see them. A sudden change in behavior at school and signs of self-harm are among the signs to watch out for. And we need to do more.
Predators can lurk at home or close to home. Changes in pattern in a home within our neighborhood can be a red flag. We need to keep our eyes and ears open to changes from what's normal in our community.
It takes all of us to be vigilant.
No child should have to live in terror and pain from sexual abuse.