A North Carolina couple are working to build the country’s first shelter for boys rescued from sex trafficking.
(NBC News)- Chris and Anna Smith’s search for a place to build the country’s first shelter for boys who were victims of sex trafficking ended in a field in eastern North Carolina, where the wild grass and a curtain of evergreens spoke of peace and freedom.
This land, they thought, was where young survivors might escape their horrors and rebuild their lives. “I just knew, I just knew in my soul, that this was it — that we had found the property,” Anna Smith recalled.
Then the neighbors found out. In the months since the project came to light, the Smiths have been called liars, profiteers and reckless by those opposed to the shelter.
The project is nearly complete, but the backlash, in a community where time creeps and change comes slow, is emblematic of a wider struggle to crack cultural taboos that confine American male sex-trafficking victims to the shadows, where they go uncounted, misunderstood, ignored.
Children recruited into the American sex trade live on society’s margins, lured there by promises of money, shelter and attention. They’re approached at school, on the streets, in group homes and homeless shelters, online.
They are, legally speaking, protected by a federal law that says anyone under 18 who is induced into commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking. But their numbers, believed to be in the thousands, are unknown, because no one has done a thorough accounting.
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