- Commercial sexual exploitation is widely underreported and hidden in plain sight. An estimated 240,000 – 325,000 youth in the United States are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation annually.
- Adolescent girls, particularly those abused, neglected, or exposed to family violence and addiction, are especially vulnerable to recruitment by pimps.
- The most frequent age of entry for girls into the commercial sex industry is between 12 and 15 years old: middle school age.
Young people are deceived, manipulated or coerced into the commercial sex industry every day.
Pimps systematically target vulnerable youth by frequenting locations where they congregate—malls, schools, bus and train stations, group homes and social networking sites.
Today, the internet gives pimps greater access to a wider array of girls. They are able to reach them through conversations on social networking sites, and later selling those girls on the same or other sites all behind closed doors.
Violence is a day-to-day reality in the lives of exploited girls, including beatings and rapes by pimps and johns. Fear, trauma and abandonment are central to the narratives of adolescent girls in the commercial sex industry. Girls recount a profound sense of being alone, without resources. They are taught by pimps that no one will believe them, that they have chosen this life and that there is no way out.
Though all girls are at risk of recruitment solely by their age, a subpopulation of girls is the most vulnerable: those who have been sexually abused. Girls who have survived such abuse may demonstrate an overwhelming sense of shame, a profoundly low sense of self-worth, and an eagerness to find “love” and acceptance. The pimps who target and trap teen girls prey on these vulnerabilities, actively seeking abuse survivors, especially girls in the care of the state child protection system.
The young victims of commercial sexual exploitation are hidden in plain sight—in our schools, group homes, juvenile justice facilities and probation departments. Often, they are first seen as victims in the child protective services system as a result of familial abuse. They are later seen as delinquents in the juvenile justice system, criminalized for the exploitation they have suffered.
Commercially sexually exploited girls are consistently the victims of violence and degradation. They are beaten and raped by their pimps as well as the adults who are their “johns.” For a large percentage of trafficked girls, this continued exposure to violence results in meeting the diagnostic criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Like soldiers returning from a war zone, these girls are impacted in mind, body, and soul by their experiences, and yet, they must return to that war zone every night.
At the core of all of our programs are prevention and survivor leadership development. Our programs work on a variety of levels to help girls in need—from prevention education for high risk girls to identification and educational trainings for youth-serving professionals to direct interventions such as survivor mentoring and leadership development opportunities—we are working to decrease the incidence of exploitation in Massachusetts and bring victims’ voices to the fight against exploitation.
Have you ever had to exchange sex for money, food, drugs, or a place to stay?
Has someone made money off your body?
If so, you are not alone.
There are a lot of people who care, many of whom have been there, and they are ready to help, whenever you are ready. Whether you need a place to sleep right now, food to eat, or help untangling your life,
Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888
or Text to BeFree (233733)
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a free call. They will listen and, if you want, connect you to people close to wherever you are calling from who can help you get safe.