Girls are deceived, manipulated, forced or coerced into prostitution every day throughout the United States. We know that the average age of entry nationally into the commercial sex industry is 12-15: middle school age. Domestic minor sex trafficking happens in all of our communities, in every corner of our country. Pimps, also known as traffickers, systematically target vulnerable girls by hanging out in places where they congregate: malls, schools, bus stations, all-age nightclubs, and group homes.
All girls are at risk of recruitment solely by their age and gender. However, a subpopulation of adolescents are the most vulnerable: girls who’ve 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.
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 damaged in mind, body, and soul by their experiences, and yet, they must return to that war zone every night.