Little girls don't dream of being forced to have sex with strangers for the financial gain of someone else. Sex trafficking is a form of slavery, where young women and girls - and men and boys - are commodities.  It's become an epidemic in our nation, our state, our neighborhoods.

There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children

According to dosomething.org, "the average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14 years old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children."

In recent years, Michigan courts have been taking new approaches to those who find themselves in the system; when applicable to the situation, instead of incarceration, the court system has begun to provide better solutions in the form of 'problem solving courts', such as Veterans Court, Drug Treatment Court, Sobriety Court, Mental Health Court and more, which offer programs for the individual to receive counseling, job training and a support system that is designed (and proven to) create more positive life outcomes.

The Lansing State Journal reports here that the most recent addition to such programs is "Phoenix Court", a treatment program that debuted last week in Ingham County for those who have been victims of sexual exploitation. The programs give the victims and their families the chance to avoid incarceration, which doesn't solve the issues at the root of the problem, and learn better ways to navigate their lives.