Official FBI figures present a very grim picture of teenage prostitution - every year almost 200,000 to 400,000 teenage boys and girls fall to the pandemic across the United States. This is a scary reflection of how many fall through the safety net of security for children. Although there are strict laws prohibiting teen prostitution, in cities where violence runs rampant, law enforcement agencies put saving teens from prostitution remains at the lower end of their priority list.
Some studies suggest that 95% of teen prostitutes suffer severe physical abuse, 85% are victims of incest, 90% are victims of sexual abuse by distant family members. These are shocking figures, but even more shocking is the fact that teen prostitution is an invisible crime. Teen prostitution may be happening right next door and you may never know. Its victims could be anyone, your sister, daughter, niece or nephew and you’d never know till its too late. Remember that commercial sex industry feeds on not just teenage girls, but boys and transgendered youth as well.
Who are the victims?
As mentioned above, anyone can be a victim, but the most vulnerable group in the eyes of pimps and traffickers are children from improvised and dysfunctional backgrounds. These children are usually lured into the trap through psychological and emotional manipulation, drugs and violence. Children in need of emotional or psychological anchors easily fall prey to people who promise to meet that need. In fact a lot of times, traffickers/pimps create a loving and caring relationship with the victim to establish trust and allegiance. It is then that the teen’s emotional dependency is exploited by the predator and they become victims. These days a lot of such relationships start online before progressing to a real-life encounter and thus entrapment.
How to protect your children?
- First and foremost, keep an eye on your teens, their company and activities.
- Establish this fact with your child that they can talk to you about anything.
- Talk openly about the innocence shrouded, predatory tactics of sex traffickers with your children and encourage them to stay alert.
- Remember that most victims were betrayed into prostitution by people they trusted, so get aquatinted with the people your children hang out with.
- Keep an eye on the virtual activity of your children, the sites they visit, the people they interact with etc., this could prove to be the most crucial step towards protecting your child.
- Learn to act on your gut feeling. Parental instincts are a lot more accurate than we give them credit for. So if you feel something is amiss, check it out.
While you can not put your child into a security bubble or tag along everywhere they go like a fool proof security blanket, you CAN educate them about child abuse prevention tips and condition them to make safe and sane decisions in life.