Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher Announce Initiative to End Child Sex Trafficking

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Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore announce their "Real Men" campaign today in New York City. Credit: Honey Berk

Though best known as one of the most attractive celebrity couples in Hollywood, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher apparently have more on their minds than the next big movie deal.

Today, at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York City, Moore and Kutcher -- founders of the DNA Foundation -- held a press conference to announce the "Real Men" campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the problem of child sex slavery and to stifle demand for child sexual exploitation and child pornography.

In his introductory remarks, Kutcher noted that yesterday was the 148th anniversary of the day Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery in the U.S. However, he said the unfortunate truth is that there are 27 million slaves in the world today -- more than ever before in human history -- and that the CIA estimates that 1 million of those can be found in the U.S.

"While it's much more comfortable for us to think that this exists in other countries," Moore remarked, "The reality is that we have to wake up to what's happening in our own backyard."

Of those 1 million slaves in the U.S., between 150,000 and 300,000 of those are "children who are being raped for profit," Kutcher said, while Moore emphasized that the average age of entry into the commercial sex trade is 13 years old.

"I don't believe that any 13-year-old chooses to be a prostitute," Moore says, "And what's interesting is that most people believe that a prostitute is choosing to sell herself when, in fact, 75 percent are enslaved by their pimp."

Kutcher said he and Moore learned about this "global epidemic" about a year ago, and came to CGI this year with the goal of learning more about this issue and meeting with the experts of the "modern-day abolitionist movement" to inform and educate themselves so they can take action.

"Truly one of the most heinous forms of slavery is the buying and selling of children for sex," Moore said, "And I'm proud to say that today ... we are making a commitment to launch and execute the 'Real Men' campaign. We are recruiting men who are courageous enough to stand behind the statement that real men don't buy girls," added Moore, "And we hope to use that collective voice to raise widespread awareness and acknowledgment of this issue in hopes of changing the cultural stereotypes that are allowing children to be sold for sex."

Moore recounted the heartbreaking story of a young girl she met that was kidnapped from the streets when she was just 11 years old, promised ice cream, clothes and trinkets as well as love, care and safety, only to end up having to turn over $1,500 a night by being "repeatedly raped for profit," and beaten or tortured if she did not reach that quota. She was lucky enough to escape that life at the age of 17, reported Moore, but many are not.

"Demand is the motor that drives this industry," Moore says, "And as long as people engage in this illegal behavior, pimps will continue to make a profit."

"There is a statistic that says 1 in 5 men have engaged in the commercial sex trade, but real men protect, respect, love and care for girls ... real men don't buy girls," Moore says.

In addition to launching the "Real Men" advocacy campaign, Kutcher and Moore have also formed an anti-trafficking tech task force comprised of a number of the country's elite technology companies, such as Twitter, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, as well as law enforcement and government officials and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"As soon as we found out that 76 percent of the transactions for sex with underaged girls take place on the internet," Kutcher said, "We knew we had to get involved in developing technology solutions to this problem." "The purpose of this tech task force is to create technology solutions to end human trafficking online," he added. "We believe that, together, we can create a trafficking-free internet and that's our mission, that's our goal."

Jack Dorsey, creator, co-founder and chairman of Twitter, and Microsoft spokesperson Pamela Passman joined Moore and Kutcher on stage, each making brief remarks in support of the advocacy campaign and tech initiative.

"We are part of this initiative because we think it can make a real difference," said Dorsey. "Keeping the internet free of child sexual exploitation is very important to our company."

Kutcher said that, ultimately, the "Real Men" advocacy effort is about finding influential men to stand up and say "real men don't buy girls." Whether it's Snoop Dog or the CEO of Google, he explained, young boys look up to influential men in the world and want to be like them when they grow up -- so what their male role models do will be emulated by that young kid.

"This isn't a disease that we don't have a cure for, this is people treating people like people," Kutcher says, "And we can all do something about that. What can be done, is people can get off their ass and they can start acting appropriately, they can start treating each other right, and they can start talking about it."

"People can stand up and be real men and women and admit that what's happening in the world today is not OK," Kutcher concluded.

Related: Susan Sarandon, Other Activists Work to Provide 'Safe Harbor' for Child Prostitutes

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.