When I set out to write my second YA novel, FORGIVEN, I began my research knowing a little about San Francisco in the early 1900s. I’d heard about the Barbary Coast; and of course I knew Chinatown. But I didn’t expect to uncover a dark world of child trafficking, and what I learned broke my heart.
From the mid-1800s on, girls as young as six were sold by their impoverished families in China to dealers who then transported them across the Pacific to San Francisco, a wild seaport and hub of the gold rush. Sometimes the girls were deluded into thinking they were bound for marriage, but those notions were dispelled once the children arrived and were sold to slave holders for as little as $100 (for a one-year-old girl) or as much as $2800 for a fourteen-year-old (this transaction took place in 1898). Most of the slaves were confined to “cribs” – tiny kennel-size enclosures just below street level – and then sold for 25 cents a visit. Few lived longer than six years; many were tortured; many were left to die of starvation if they were sick or pregnant.
We’ll never know how many were buried or burned alive in the San Francisco earthquake.
They had no voice.
As I write these words, my hands are shaking.
They shake because I cannot imagine the horror that these girls must have experienced in their short and miserable lives. They shake because this kind of abuse still exists worldwide.
As many as 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Mexican agencies report that more than 16,000 children work as prostitutes. In southeast Asia, 35% of prostitutes are children.
What can we do?
There are a number of agencies that actively fight the exploitation and trafficking of children. I urge you to check them out and become involved. Some seek volunteer help; some sponsor awareness campaigns; some need donations.
But please don’t close your eyes.
Here are three agencies I recommend:
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Stop Child Trafficking
Thank you, Janet, thank you.
Please go to all three sites and look around, then come back and share a meaningful comment for your chance to win a signed chapter sample of Janet's second work, Forgiven, as well as some beautiful signed bookmarks!
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