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Celebrities Leverage Online Video to Combat Child Sex Trafficking

The Demi and Ashton (DNA) Foundation recently launched a high-profile online video initiative to fight child sex trafficking. The series "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" features major celebrity appearances by names like Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake, and even Pete Cashmore - founder of the social media news site Mashable.com.

The interactive campaign encourages users to submit their own "Real Man" video - using the slogans "I am a Real Man" or "I prefer a Real Man" - and upload them to the DNA Foundation's Facebook fanpage. In the video above, Isaiah Mustafa (commonly known as "The Old Spice Guy") and Mashable founder Pete Cashmore tip their hat to the cause.

According to the DNA Foundation, the videos - and the organization itself - aim "to raise awareness about child sex slavery, change the cultural stereotypes that facilitate this horrific problem, and rehabilitate innocent victims." Many of the videos take a quirky and often funny look on what it means to be a "Real Man" while attempting to address a serious issue.

According to the DNA Foundation's website:

  • 12.3 million people are enslaved today worldwide.
  • In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation eradicating slavery, yet more than one million people are enslaved in the U.S. today.
  • Two million children are bought and sold in the global commercial sex trade.
  • The average age of entry into commercial sex slavery in the United States is 13 years old.
  • The global sex slavery market generates $32 billion in profits each year.
  • Every ten minutes, a woman or child is trafficked into the United States for forced labor.
  • Most “johns” are quite ordinary: 70-90 percent are married, and most are employed with no criminal record.
  • 76 percent of transactions for sex with underage girls are conducted via the internet.
  • The U.S. government spends 300 times more money per year to fight drug trafficking than it does to fight human trafficking.
  • Approximately 55 percent of girls living on the streets in the United States engage in commercial sex slavery. Girls from middle and upper class neighborhoods are also at risk.

A Mashable article about the video series has already been shared more than 1,600 times across the social web. Mashable's esteem -along with a star-studded line up and DNA Foundations 43,000 Facebook friends - may be just the vehicle Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher needed to foster mainstream awareness.

Youth Promise Act draws star power

A campaign to get federal funding for youth violence prevention programs in urban centers is gathering steam in the entertainment industry.  Media mogul Russell Simmons has joined the movement to support the Youth Promise Act, H.R. 1064, pending in Congress. Simmons writes about it in his blog for the Huffington Post:

“Every year in America, 600,000 youth are confined in a jail or prison... With the White House ready to address this growing issue, we need a proven cost-effective way of reducing youth violence.”

The Youth Promise Act would amend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  Some provisions include:

  • Local oversight and control of funds.
  • Custom tailored plans created for each community.
  • Creation of a National Research Center for Proven Juvenile Justice Practices

Celebrities, sports figures, gang experts and politicians are joining the cause on Facebook,  Twitter, and YouTube.  They released a video last week.  Supporters include NFL star and civil rights activist Jim Brown, actress Robin Wright, Baron Davis of the NBA, and Congressional sponsor Bobby Scott (D- Virginia).  On his website Scott says, "The Youth PROMISE Act represents a paradigm shift in the way we address juvenile crime policy in America.  Instead of doing what is politically expedient, we have the opportunity to both reduce crime and save money."

The Youth Promise Act faces some tough opposition in a bad economy.  At a Congressional hearing last July, David Muhlhausen, Ph.D. from The Heritage Foundation testified that it would cost too much, fund mediocre programs that duplicate other programs, and may not solve deliquency and gang problems.