I used to live in a neighborhood where I would see my share of prostitutes. Over time, the girls would become younger and the “johns” would find that quite appealing. Some girls didn’t look even 13 years old and complaining to the police resulted in little change. The girls would be out again and the “johns” would be waiting.
Recently, a New York Times op-ed columnist named Nicholas D. Kristof wrote an article titled: What About American Girls Sold on the Streets? He discusses the problem of American human trafficking of girls and the Rachel Lloyd’s book called Girls Like Us. Ms. Lloyd is a sex trafficking survivor and started the nonprofit GEMS (Girls, Educational and Mentoring Services), which helps girls with a similar past.
According to Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times: “The problem is that these girls aren’t locked in cages. Rather, they’re often runaways out on the street wearing short skirts or busting out of low-cut tops, and many Americans perceive them not as trafficking victims but as miscreants who have chosen their way of life. So even when they’re 14 years old, we often arrest and prosecute them — even as the trafficker goes free.” The pimp, trafficker, and “john” avoid punishment and this needs to stop.
Perception needs to change regarding how the girls get onto the streets. Kristof: “Americans often think that ‘trafficking’ is about Mexican or Korean or Russian women smuggled into brothels in the United States. That happens. But in my years and years of reporting, I’ve found that the biggest trafficking problem involves homegrown American runaways.” Girls find themselves with limited options if their home life is abusive and there is no trusted adult to turn to.
As a result, prosecution needs to be consistent and prudent. Programs to give runaways and girls different options to life on the streets need to be implemented and financially supported. The first step is changing attitudes towards women and stopping the mainstream sexualizing of young girls. Respect to women can be the first step…