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The Stolen Ones

National child advocacy groups estimate at least 100,000 U.S. children are exploited by the domestic sex trade each year. As many as 300,000 children are at risk of becoming sexual commodities each year. The numbers are as dubious as they are revealing. The wide-ranging estimate is not born of spurious statistical manipulation or blind guesswork, but rather a simple and undeniable limitation: There is no precise way to gauge how many children are being bartered and sold for sex. 

A deeper problem persists. We can’t track something we haven’t been looking for. Sarasota Herald-Tribune reporter J. David McSwane and photographer Dan Wagner investigated and wrote a story that looks at child sex trafficking from the bottom up — examining not only the what but the who, why and how of the issue — in a layered, character-driven narrative, with photos and videos to round out the story. 

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