Profile Of An Underaged Prostitute (Part V)

Why Victims Do Not Seek Help

The key reason victims do not seek help is because they have a twisted love for their pimp which prevents them from contacting the police.  Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Sharmin Eshraghi Bock accurately describe why teen prostitutes do not leave the lifestyle of prostitution by stating, ” they don’t know what love looks like, what it feels like, or means to be loved.  When the pimps gives them some pretty clothes, a hot meal, a cell phone and some attention, they think that’s love.”  Prostitutes have difficulty escaping even after the attention turns violent.  Intertwined with this reality is the truth that victims of sexual exploitation often times do not immediately seek help or self-identify as a victim due to lack of trust, self-blame or training by the traffickers.

There is a very little chance of victims getting out of the industry, according to John McGuiness, former Sacramento Sheriff.  Many victims, especially in Sacramento, CA, stay in the part of the city they were initially trapped in.  Pimps do not chase girls/boys from city to city if a victim leaves the city of entrapment or ’employment’ due to the demand in the current location and the ability to employ a new victim outweighs the cost of retrieving a former victim.  If a victim escapes his or her pimp, (s)he will most likely be ensnared by another one.  There are no places for a victim to go due to pimps, customers and other prostitutes being their only points of contacts.

Thirdly, victims may not leave a situation due to brainwashing on behalf of pimps and traffickers.  These latter parties purposefully control the information that victims receive including any resources or services designed to help them (the victim).  Victims distrust law enforcement, government officials and services providers because of what pimps have told them, past negative experiences and/or a community’s lack of action.  Victims are afraid of police due to a belief they will be arrest for other crimes and locked up indefinitely.  There is some partial truth to this, however, as the justice system views victims of prostitution in a negative light and treats them as criminals rather than victims.  Executive Director of ECPAT-USA, Carol Smolenski, sates that there needs to be a “(social) service that will a victim’s situation well, making it easier for her to leave”.

Note: an important facet is that the majority of trafficking and prostitution victims do not self-identify as victims.  This is important because they may be unaware of the elements of the crime or the Federal criminal paradigm designed to protect them.  Additionally, a victim is trained in telling lies to organizations designed to aid them.

Profile Of An Underaged Prostitute (Part IV)

The fourth part in a five part mini series on profiling underaged prostitutes in the United States.

Choice versus Force

Victims do not freely choose prostitution or sexual exploitation.  These individuals have suffered violence and abusive situations in which they may have lost their sense of psychological and physical well-being.  A fragile sense of self-esteem and limited resources have led many individuals into believing that they have no other choice but to enter prostitution – due, largely, to the abusive and neglectful homes in which they grew up.  In other words, victims slide into prostitution as an alternative due to past manipulation.  This misconception of not being good for anything else is reinforced by their pimps, customers, peer group and/or “co-workers”.

The dominance of pimps over the victim is kept through coercion and psychological manipulation and not necessarily forced kidnappings.  Victims suffer pain, humiliation and degradation by pimps and customers.  What keeps individuals in prostitution is the fact that they are living by the rules of the street.  For example, if an individual makes eye contact with another pimp then (s)he is forced into working for that pimp resulting in new ownership of him-/her-self as (s)he goes to work for that new pimp.

Next – I will wrap up this mini series by briefly looking at why victims do not seek help out of prostitution or sex trafficking.

Profile Of An Underaged Prostitute (Part III)

Part III in a series on profiling sexually exploited American youth.  This blog looks at which groups of individuals are at higher risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation as well as defining characteristics and family background.

High Risk Groups

  • Children living without one of their biological parents
  • When the mother is unavailable to the child due to either employment outside the home, disability or illness
  • When a child reports parents’ marriage is unhappy or conflictual
  • When a child reports having a poor relationship with their parents or being subject to extremely punitive cycles of child abuse
  • When a stepfather is present
  • Children who have access to organized crime units
  • Children who live in communities where there is a presence of large numbers of unattached and transient males (i.e. military personnel, truckers, conventioneers, sex tourists)

Characteristics

Victims of prostitution are alone, alienated, defenseless and neglected.  Such individuals have no self-esteem and little hope or respect for themselves or others, especially male figures.  These characteristics have been brought on by physical, sexual and psychological abuse.  Moreover, victims lack the aggression that is required for survival on the street(s), making them more vulnerable to manipulation and con games played by pimps.

Another characteristic of victims is poor physical and mental health.  Both males and females exhibit unexplained injuries or signs of prolonged and untreated illnesses or disease.  Signs of physical or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture are included in this category.  Heart trouble, chronic liver disease, STD’s, HIV exposure and infertility are all examples of health problems that victims experience.  Such individuals also appear to be malnourished.  Juvenile victims may have behavior or communication disorders and learning disabilities as a result of poor mental health.  As a result, many are depressed, are of a fragile state of mind and exhibit unusual amounts of fear, anxiety, depression, submission, tension or nervous/paranoid behavior.  Victims react with unusual amounts of distress at any reference to “law enforcement” as well as avoiding eye contact and exhibiting a flat effect.  This places such individuals at a higher risk of running away.

Thirdly, victims display a lack of control.  Victims have few, if any, personal possession and are not in control of his or her individual money.  They have no financial records, bank account or possession of identification documents.  Victims are not allowed or able to speak for him-/her-self as a third party may insist on being present or the individual has an attorney that (s)he does not seem to know or have agreed to receive representation from.

Family Life

Victims usually do not come from an intact family life in which there is no reliable parents.  The paternal figure is, often times, missing from their life due largely to multiple divorces.  Linked closely to this is the abuse-predominately physical-of the victim’s mother by a male relative or boyfriend.

Victims may or may not have personally experience similar abuse in their homes as well.  There is a higher percentage of individuals who become involved in prostitution after experiencing molestation at any given point in their life, including physical and emotional exploitation.  40% of girls and 30% of boys have acknowledged familial sexual abuse.  Juveniles who become involved in prostitution have a past of sexual abuse and enter prostitution as a passive acceptance of a social reality.  In other words, victims run to the street during adolescent in order to escape sexual exploitation by a trusted caregiver.  85% of underage victims have run away from the homes and people who were suppose to have kept them safe from the sexual and/or physical abuse they suffered there.  “What we found as prosecutors is that a great number who are abused as children end up being very vulnerable to predators we know as ‘pimps'”, said San Francisco District Attorny Kamala Harris.

It is also possible for victims to have a family history of relatives being involved in prostitution and (the victim) has fallen captive to the same industry as a result.  Additionally, there may be traces of drug or alcoholic addictions interwoven in these family situations.

Moreover, victims tend to be part of the system through group homes, foster care systems or juvenile facilities in which they act as runaways. Individuals are placed here due to sexual and physical abuse at home but are not happy here and run away onto the streets as a result.  Group or foster homes are required by law to file a missing child report but they do nothing more except wait to see if patrol picks up the juvenile.  Therefore, no importance is placed on the report unless information is gathered that a child is in danger.  This puts victims at a higher risk of becoming involved with prostitution because they are on the run which causes them to become easy targets for pimps.  They may engage or be coerced into prostitution for “survival sex”‘ in order to meet daily needs for food, shelter or drugs.  The abandonment of an individual by their families and the social service system aids in the victimization and vulnerability of underaged youth to the world of sexual exploitation.

Next – Examining whether prostitutes and victims of human trafficking chose to enter the sex industry or if they enter the profession by force.

Profile Of An Underaged Prostitute (Part II)

A continuation of my series in which I provided an overview of what an American prostituted or trafficked individual looks like.  This section gives a brief glimpse at the age(s) and ethnicity(ies) of American prostitutes and victims of human trafficking.

Ages

The age of juvenile prostitutes is 11-17 years of age, with the average age of a juvenile prostitute and/or human trafficking victim in (Northern) California as 14 years old.  The youngest victim that the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force has encountered in California is 11 years old.  The younger a victim is, the more popular they are according to Former Sacramento Sheriff John McGuiness.

Ethnicity

The three primary groups entrapped in prostitution and sexual exploitation are African-Americans, Latino-Americans and Caucasians.  California witnesses African-American and Caucasian females as the majority of their victims-all of whom are American girls.  African-American victims-particularly females-are arrested in prostitution at a far higher rate than victims of any other race or ethnicity in the same industry.

Next – Exploring which groups are at higher risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation, characteristics that define a victim, and what their family lives look like.

Profile Of An Underaged Prostitute (Part I)

This is Part I in a series on profiling victims of prostitution and human/sex trafficking.  These blogs are intended for educational purposes so as to increase awareness on human and sex trafficking within the United States. Additionally, my goal is to break down the idea that victims who are being abused within the U.S. are not shipped in from around the world, or are victims of indiscriminate kidnappings.  Rather, the vast majority of victims are domestic runaways.  American children tend to be easy targets for this particular industry as they carry less risk for the traffickers, pimps and buyers than do adults and foreign nationals.  Approximately 200,000 and 293,000 American youth are at risk each year of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE).  60% of these children are runaways, thrownaways or homeless children.

Note: there is not a consistent type of profile for a trafficked or prostituted victim.  However, this profile is intended as a generalized overview of what an American trafficked or prostituted individual looks like.

Gender Statistics

60% of prostitutes and sexually exploited individuals are females: A 2008 study identified approximately 41% of women and girls are escorts, of which 28% started upon initial recruitment into commercial sex.  Of the 41% who were escorts, 59% stated they had been coerced.  Girls are involved largely in pimp-controlled prostitution, including street prostitution and prostitution organized through escort and massage services.  55% of street girls are engaged in formal prostitution in which roughly 75% are controlled by a pimp.

40% of prostitutes and sexually exploited individuals are males.  Male juvenile prostitution is not as visible as that of female prostitution due to being held in tightly organized rings.  Approximately 40-50% of sexually exploited boys have been thrown out of their homes due to sexual identity issues.  Approximately 25-35% of male youth prostitutes self-identify as gay, bisexual or transgender/transsexual (Estes & Weiner, 2001).  Regardless of the boy’s self-identification, a minimum of 95% of all prostitution engaged in by boys is provided to adult men.  Males also participate in entrepreneurial pornography.  Boys, often times, will eventually become pimps or hustlers if not helped in existing prostitution.  Male sex trafficking victims are highly stigmatized and most are overlooked and ignored as a result of a lack of information or resources due to strict pimp control.

Next – Taking a look at the ages and ethnicity of human trafficking victims.

It Is Well With My Soul

Suffering is unavoidable.  It is a part of life that cannot be avoided, no matter how hard we try to escape it.  For suffering brings pain, agony, turmoil, grief, sorrow, misery and separation.  Suffering is uncomfortable and irritable.  It is difficult to undergo such turbulence, much less with a joyful disposition.  Yet Scripture calls believers to find joy and contentment in the midst of sorrow (i.e. Romans 5:3-5, 8:18).

The words of Horatio G. Spafford speak so much truth about how our hearts should be in tune with Christ.  “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.  It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.  Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.  It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

It is hard to remember that God knows what is best and that His timing always prevails.  The trials and tribulations we face in life are not what any of us would have chosen but we are imperfect human beings and our plans or timing of things often times conflict with that of our Father’s.  Suffering is a beautiful reminder that we do not have to understand why God chooses to allow certain circumstances to fall upon us. The only thing we need know and accept is that God is Sovereign and He is good and in control, although it may seem quite the contrary.  He has our best interest in mind, despite the sadness or difficulty of our current situation.  He knows what is best, not us.  What I have been able to realize is that God’s plan is better than anything that I could ever image for myself.  That He will bless me beyond compare in the future and I anticipate that with joy.  But the process of waiting upon the Lord is difficult and sometimes painful.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and fine me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13.  Our prayers cannot alter what God has already ordained but it can change the way our hearts and minds view our present situation.  When we alter our mindset so that it mirrors the heart of God, we stop taking the sweet moments in life for granted and begin to be grateful for what we already have.  It is only when our hearts have joyfully accepted the suffering that God has ordained that our trials and tribulations become well with our souls.