Commercially Sexually Exploited Children
"I am proud that the Seattle Police Department is a member of the regional effort that is addressing the myriad issues surrounding prostituted youth and the commercial sexual exploitation of minors. This regional and multi-agency approach, which includes both governmental and non-governmental organizations, is one of the most thought-out and well-executed, unified responses to a law enforcement and community problem that I have seen in my 30 years of police work." Chief John Diaz, Seattle Police Department
The current estimate is that 293,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation, many of whom are runaways, walk aways, or thrown aways. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
Many youth who live on the streets are lured or forced into child prostitution. Most of the time, they are recruited by someone who knew them (through their friends, from around the neighborhood) or sometimes by someone who knew of them but they have never met. (Williamson and Prior, 2009)
Prostituted youth have a history of abuse and neglect:
- Research has shown that the majority of child prostitution victims come from homes where they have been abused, or from families that have abandoned them.
- More than half of the girls (57%) involved in prostitution stated that they were sexually abused by someone outside of the family.
- Nearly 30% reported sexual abuse by someone in the family; and 14% disclosed sexual abuse by both someone within and outside of their family. (Williamson and Prior, 2009)
- Parental/caregiver neglect was found to be the most common experience, shared by most if not all of the child victims. This neglect drives many youth to seek out and connect with others (pimps/traffickers and johns) to fulfill their basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing.
- Parental neglect and absence were often due to addiction to chemical and substance abuse dependency; 64% of girls in one study revealed one or both parents were addicted to drugs or alcohol. (Williamson and Prior, 2009)
Pimps and their Tactics
A number of youth who engage in prostitution are also pressured into "the life" by their boyfriends/pimps – nearly 75% of girls involved in prostitution work for a pimp.
A pimp will notice and exploit a young victim's vulnerability, need for security, love, and basic needs. He will gain her attention and trust, and then exploit her for his monetary gain. This is called "selling the dream" (Seattle Times article)
- Maintain power and control through a cycle of attention, affection, threat, force, coercion and violence, many times combined with forced drug use
- Frequent moves or travel far from home
- Isolation of prostituted youth from family and friends, making the relationship with the pimp/trafficker the only one they have.
Pimp-controlled commercial sexual exploitation of children is linked to:
- Escort and massage services
- Private dancing, drinking and photographic clubs
- Major sporting and recreational events
- Major cultural events, conventions, and tourist destinations
- Local gangs and/or nationally organized crime networks
“I know that 'Rochelle,' a white female, worked for 'E.J.' and I know that he beat her when she either disobeyed him or did not make him enough money. He would brag to me about beating her, and I have seen him hit Rochelle when she disobeyed him. I know that E.J.'s way of doing business is, when he recruits girls to go work for him, is to use whatever force or fear he needs to keep them in line. E.J. would take the money from his girls and spend it on things like new shoes, clothes, gas for his car, and pot. I know that E.J. had juvenile females working for him (he was their pimp). Like me with (the girl I pimp), E.J. would call all the shots with these girls and take all of their money. He used force and threats as a mean to coerce the girls and to keep them obedient and under his control. Most of the girls knew that E.J. was a member of the 'X' gang." (Taken from a July 2009 criminal plea agreement entered in King County Superior Court involving a defendant charged with pimping juveniles in a gang-related prostitution scheme.)
- 450,000 children run away from home every year. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- An estimated 10-15% of children living on the streets have been sexually exploited. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
- 1 out 3 teens on the streets will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. (National Runaway Hotline)
- The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14. For boys and transgender youth, the average age into prostitution is 11 to 13. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
- Approximately 55% of homeless girls engage in formal prostitution; of the girls engaged in formal prostitution, about 75% worked for a pimp. (Estes and Weiner, 2001)
- Between 100,000 and 3 million teens are prostituted in the United States every year. (Department of Justice)