Commercially Sexually Exploited Children
In Seattle - King County
"It is time for our community to recognize and speak out against the dark secret of children being forced into prostitution. We must do everything we can through our criminal justice system and human services programs to combat the commercial sexual abuse of minors. I am pleased that our community partners are working hard every day to help these victims escape the fear and violence inflicted upon them by their abusers." Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecutor
Special local report
In June 2008, the Seattle Human Services Department released a special report it commissioned from Dr. Debra Boyer entitled "Who Pays the Price? Youth Involvement in Prostitution in Seattle." The report identified 238 specific individual children in King County (in 2007) who were involved in prostitution and noted that there are between 300 and 500 prostituted youth in King County today, and some are as young as 11.
Who Pays the Price? Report Recommendations
- Create a statewide network of safe housing programs which provide wrap around services for commercially sexually exploited youth.
- Create a community response plan involving a broad spectrum of responders and providers.
- Provide ongoing, comprehensive trainings to increase provider and responder knowledge and skills about how to identify, engage and better serve commercially sexually exploited youth.
- Address the contradictory legal status of youth involved in prostitution.
Prostituted youth are subjected to severe ongoing sexual, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of pimps and "johns" They also experience physical and mental health issues, and suffer from substance abuse and chemical dependency. Many prostituted youth are at increased risk for suicide and homicide. (Williamson and Prior, 2009).
Data from Atlanta's Angela House (one of a handful of residential recovery programs for prostituted children):
- 70% of the youth served during 2007 reported a history of childhood sexual abuse
- 86% reported significant substance abuse
- More than 50% of the girls displayed evidence of moderate or severe depression
- 86% had a history of criminal charges and incarceration
Need for residential recovery program
Recovery from the trauma of abuse and exploitation that prostituted youth endure requires extensive and highly specialized services provided in a safe, stable and welcoming setting. Currently, there are only a handful of programs in the country that are established to meet the special needs of this population - in fact, there are only 61 beds in the U.S. specifically dedicated to prostituted children. Until now, there has not been a program in Washington state.
There is evidence that a dedicated residential recovery program with wrap-around mental health, chemical dependency, and educational and vocational services (provided by well trained specialists both on-site and in the community), can help them succeed in breaking free.
"Goldie" ran from home at the age of 13 because of a physically abusive father, who is now in jail. She first ran to the home of a friend from middle school, which was located in the central area Seattle. Goldie is a Native American and Caucasian and is "preyed on" by everyone, according to her caseworker. At her first hearing in Juvenile Court, no one was aware of her prostitution involvement. She was held in detention for 30 days on another charge then released on community supervision. Other youth in detention recognized her and knew she had affiliated with a gang and had a pimp. While in detention, she had to keep her head down as a sign that she was "not choosing" a pimp and was not making herself available to another pimp in detention. Goldie had started using drugs and was already addicted. While in detention, she also made contact with a community social worker and enrolled herself in case management. She is out of detention and has tried living with her mother, but is overwhelmed by the demands of middle school and outpatient treatment. She has an STD and has started disappearing again. She told her caseworker she wanted a family.
From: Who Pay's the Price?
Gangs and Pimping
Not only is child sex trafficking a moral issue, it is a growing public safety issue. Fifteen years ago, gang activities were linked primarily with drug trafficking. It has now shifted. The newer revenue source for gangs is pimping girls.
The Seattle Police Department confirms that gangs are now running prostitutes (both adults and minors). The prostitutes engage in a host of criminal activities, which benefits their pimps and the gangs to which they belong. The structure of the pimp-prostitute relationship contributes to stubborn crime patterns in our community, such as petty theft, robbery, assault, drug dealing and chronic nuisance properties.
See the Seattle Times article about a convicted pimp.