Emma Jackson was a happy 13-year-old with a loving family. However, this all changed when a couple of boys she’d met at a shopping center introduced her to a much older yet alluring Asian man, Tariq. Through his charismatic personality and generosity, he wove a web around her until one day he let his mask fall off and made his real intentions known by raping her and forcing her into prostitution. The teenager realized only too late that she’d fallen into the trap of a pimp. Unfortunately, the appalling case of Emma is not isolated. Countless teenage girls across the UK find themselves on the radar of pimps, facing the danger of or experiencing a fate similar to hers. Being young and naïve, they’re unable to recognize the grooming ring when it approaches them and leads them into the world of sexual exploitation.
How the ensnaring is carried out
Pimps targeting teenage girls for prostitution generally operate in a very organized manner. The way they groom their target and eventually bind them may be split into four phases.
During the first phase, which is the attachment phase, the pimp moves in on the target, initially becoming their friend and then their boyfriend. One he gets close to the victim, he starts showering them with praises and gifts, and even makes promises of life-long commitment. Gradually, he introduces them to drugs and sex, convincing them that they’re old enough to do it.
Then begins the isolation phase. The pimp begins to build more control over the victim by distancing them from their family and friends and even encouraging them to drop out of school. They’re coaxed into spending more time with him and his gang.
Once the victim is isolated from their former environment, the pimp emotionally blackmails them into entering prostitution. Cut off from family and friends, the victims oblige as they feel they’ve got no one to turn to for help. They may even continue to believe that the pimp has feelings for them.
Finally, the pimp lets go of all pretense and thus begins the violence phase. The victim is routinely beaten and threatened into having sex with clients. To keep them from seeking help, the pimp and his gang threatens to harm their family.
The common targets
While every young girl may be a target of pimps, there are certain factors that make some of them more susceptible to the threat than others. Girls with broken or poor families often find themselves on top of the targets list due to their insecurity. Runaway girls, school dropouts, girls with a history of sexual abuse, and girls who frequently hang out in the streets or malls either alone or in twos are also more likely to attract the attention of pimps, who may present away, scanning for prospective victims.
What the parents and law enforcement authorities must do
Parents and law enforcement authorities have a vital role to play in protecting teenage girls from getting dragged into child prostitution. Parents must warn their young girls of danger of pimps and sexual exploitation in an age-appropriate manner. They must also ensure a safe and healthy domestic environment, and keep the lines of communication open so that their offspring can talk to them anytime without fear of reprisal. Parents must also keep an eye on who their teenage girls hang out with and the places they visit. They should not hesitate to take their victim child under their wing and offer her protection. In case of a problem or even a suspicion, law enforcement authorities should be involved. It’s important that the latter take manipulation and threats into account when dealing with cases of child prostitution. They should not be too quick to acquit the accused. Furthermore, pimps should be dealt with harshly so as to discourage others from the crime.
Combating the heinous crime of child prostitution may prove to be a steep challenge due to the manipulative nature of the crime and society’s attitude towards the victims. While the battle may be long and hard, commitment and perseverance will surely lead to success.