Human trafficking, the equivalent of modern-day slavery, not only affects millions of victims living around the world, but also exists here in the United States, alerted a Christian group Friday on National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness.
The United Nations estimates conservatively that more than 700,000 people are trafficked worldwide each year, generating revenue close to $10 billion. Of that number, an estimated 14,500-17,000 people are trafficked into the country annually, according to the U.S. State Department.
Cases have been reported in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. In Atlanta, there is a growing crisis of child prostitution where men fly in during the day to have sex with children and then return home to their families at night, according to Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation's largest public policy women's organization.
"Increasingly, there is awareness of human trafficking at the international level while many people remain convinced that the problem doesn't exist here in America and certainly not close to where they live," said Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute.
Reports of human trafficking were also made Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Wyoming and others.
Crouse said CWA, on the day of awareness, is calling on its members and friends to pray for victims and asks them to study about human trafficking to increase awareness about the problem.
The women's public policy group reminds the public that women and children make up the overwhelming majority (80 percent) of the victims, and the average age at which a girl is prostituted is 12-14 years old.
Other Christian groups that have raised awareness on the issue include the Salvation Army, International Justice Mission and the U.S. Center for World Mission.
The U.S. State Department estimates there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor and sexual servitude in the world. Human trafficking is now the No. 2 international crime behind drug trafficking as the most profitable and extensive crime in the world, according to Crouse.