By Tara Kyle
GREENWICH VILLAGE — "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Caroline Manzo and Big Brother alumni Stephen Baldwin got a dose of reality on Thursday night when they attended a benefit against child trafficking.
"Everybody thinks the world is lollipops and roses, but it's not," Manzo told DNAinfo at the Stop Child Trafficking Now benefit at the Verandah Lounge.
"This is going on in our backyards, and we don't know about it — but we know what the height of Snooki's hair is."
The housewife, who plays the Momma Bear on the reality show, said she'd first learned about the important issue on Twitter.
America provides the greatest demand for under-age prostitutes, according to Sundy Goodnight, national campaign director for the advocacy group. Although the number of victims in New York is difficult to pinpoint, she estimates 2,500 to 10,000 young women and children could be held in slavery. Most are from Central America or Eastern Europe.
Curtis Sliwa, founder and CEO of the Guardian Angels community safety group, said one hotbed of trafficking in the city is along the 7 subway train. There, he said many of the cards advertising massages, prostitutions and escorts are in fact services provided by enslaved children and women.
The problem gets little attention in the U.S., however, because many people make the assumption that human trafficking is a problem in other countries, not at home. Kristie Neo, an intern for Stop Child Trafficking Now, said that in her native Singapore, news reports on the issue are common.
"It's everywhere," said Stephen Baldwin, who has been involved in various anti-trafficking groups for the past three years. "At some point, people like [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg are going to turn around and say, we need to provide a realistic amount of funding and resources."
Addressing the crowd, Baldwin urged benefit-goers to donate their time, money or voices to helping to raise the profile of child trafficking as an issue.
"I've seen the other side of this. I've seen these girls get redeemed, I've seen them get healed. There's hope for them," he told benefit goers.
"Fight the fight. Do something."
On Oct. 9, Stop Child Trafficking Now will host its annual fund-raising walk, beginning at 62nd Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.