Peruvian Net against Child Pornography

The Peruvian Net against Child Pornography is a non-profit organisation that works against Child Pornography, Child Sexual Abuse, Child Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons and especially aganist Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Peru and Latin America. We are working and liaising with institutions that aim the same objectives.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prostitution of Children

What is the Prostitution of Children?

Prostitution is generally defined as performing, offering, or agreeing to perform a sexual act for any money, property, token, object, article, or anything of value. Prostitution of children, therefore, is defined as the sexual exploitation of a child for remuneration in cash or in-kind, usually but not always organized by an intermediary such as a procurer, family member, pimp, or madame. Hundreds of thousands of children have been lured into prostitution. Though the prostitution of female children is more widely publicized, male children are also susceptible to the same dangers as females in this world of exploitation.

Dangers to Children

The dangers children face as a result of prostitution are both immediate and long-term. Most immediate is the physical, mental, and emotional violence these children experience at the hands of pimps, madams, and customers. Long-term dangers include health problems, drug addictions, adverse psychological effects, and even death. The most tangible consequence for children involved in prostitution is the extremely high probability of suffering violent assault. Not only are child victims of prostitution in danger from street life and pimps who prey on them, but the customers also pose great risks including forced perversion, rape, and physical abuse and beatings. At least two thirds are victimized by both customers and pimps. Violence from pimps tends to be more frequent, and violence by customers is more dangerous but sporadic. Prostituted children are often afraid to report these crimes to law enforcement because they are embarrassed and fearful that the charges would not be taken seriously or they may be arrested themselves.

What Are Some of the Causes of this Crime?

Homelessness, poverty, and intolerance of their sexual orientation may all affect children who either are or have been prostituted. General psychological and emotional problems, housing instability, substance abuse, educational and vocational failure, and major problems at home have all been cited as common precipitating factors in the lives of prostituted children. The children's young age, lack of education, and lack of the necessary street sense to survive alone contribute to their need to engage in survival sex, or the exchange of sex for food, money, shelter, drugs, or protection that defines many of these young people's lives.

Long-Term Psychological Effects to Children

Children who experience inappropriate sexual activity of a violent or nonviolent nature, are psychologically impacted by a combination of the trauma of the assault itself coupled with the distorted information exploiters use to justify their sexual behavior. Some of the many psychological effects of assault may be revealed through the child suffering from depression, disassociation, and posttraumatic shock. To cope with their painful reality, more than three quarters are diagnosed as abusing drugs or alcohol as a temporary escape. The existence of a drug culture in street life is truly a double-edged sword. Being sexually exploited through prostitution may result in a higher risk of substance abuse, and abusing substances places children at a higher risk for prostitution. Prostituted children may internalize feelings of guilt for their participation in sexual acts which may lead to additional promiscuity or the engagement in other reckless behaviors.
Children on the streets are not only more likely to be clinically depressed, but they are also twice as likely to have a serious mental-health problem and almost twice as likely to be actively suicidal or to have previously attempted suicide. In one group of youth involved in prostitution, who were interviewed in shelters, 71 percent reported suicidal ideation, 33 percent had a lethal plan, and 14 percent reported a previous attempt at suicide.

What Are the Trends in Prostitution in the United States?

Many child victims of prostitution are only 11 or 12 years old, and some are as young as 9. The average age at which they enter prostitution is reported as 14, and the median age of involved youth is 15.5 years. These children come from inner cities, suburbs, and small towns, and there appears to be an increase in the recruitment of middle-class youth from schools and shopping malls in the suburbs. The vast majority of youth involved in prostitution are girls, although some service providers see an increase in the number of boys. Some attribute this to a greater willingness by boys to disclose their sexual activities. Larger cities are more likely to have a higher proportion of boys involved in prostitution; however, service providers in smaller cities report seeing an increase in prostitution activities. "Prostitution is a seasonal problem. It is most prevalent during the warmer months and in cities with warmer climates. During the peak seasons for prostitution in the larger cities throughout the United States, there can be as many as 500 prostitutes on the streets. At least 25-30 percent of those prostitutes are children younger than 18."
Child victims of prostitution are not running from poverty, rather in many cases they are running away from a dysfunctional family where they suffered physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse. The children who become involved in prostitution have often suffered previous physical or sexual abuse and may be dealing with the attendant anger and low self-esteem. They may engage in delinquent or criminal activity, causing others to view them more as offenders than victims. And they very likely to, and often with good reason, have a distrust of adults, even those who want to help them.
These children crave attention, affection, and love. This can make the child vulnerable to manipulation by a pimp, a madame, or another person or group seeking to exploit the child. Initially a pimp seduces the child by providing comfort, protection, and understanding.1 As he gains the child's trust, he further alienates the child, increasing the child's dependency on him. Once a child is financially and emotionally dependent on a pimp, he introduces the child to the world of commercial sexual exploitation. Pimps control 80 to 90 percent of prostitution and can be men or women.
A common trend in the prostitution of children involves taking the child far from home to both avoid immediate detection and decrease the chances of the child returning home. The child's exploiter may travel with the child to many cities depending on tourist or event traffic in certain areas of the country.
The prostitution of children is the most overlooked form of child exploitation in the United States. The issue is often treated as a nuisance crime by local law enforcement. There is also the misconception that juveniles are willing participants in their own victimization. Having experienced unimaginable exploitation, they are truly victims in desperate need of help. Professionals from a variety of disciplines including the court system, law enforcement, and victim's service agencies must increase their collective efforts to combat this problem.

Preventing Prostitution of Children

Although child victims of prostitution are not always runaways, there is a close link between the two issues.
The information below has been adapted from Paul & Lisa's Programs and Services with permission of Paul and Lisa, Inc., July 2003.

The Importance of Family Communication

The key to preventing children from becoming runaways or falling victim to the manipulations of those who wish to exploit them is awareness by caregivers and a their ability to communicate with their children. An open line of communication in families is one of the most important ways to keep children from running away. Anyone who has been a parent, grandparent, or guardian recognizes that this task is not easy; therefore, caregivers are encouraged to use parenting classes and counseling services offered by state and local governments.

The Importance of Community Awareness and Involvement

The homes children run away from are often marked by emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; neglect; or regular violence between the parents. In situations like this it is difficult for families to prevent children from running away as the children believe that their family is the reason they desire to leave the home. To protect these children from the dangers of the streets, we must first increase awareness and educate professionals working on a daily basis with children. Programs like Paul & Lisa educate professionals, such as guidance counselors and coaches, about the causes and effects of this form of prostitution. These programs also educate professionals about measures they can perform to prevent this form of prostitution. It is vital that we educate these professionals because they have the continual presence and ability to provide children with the awareness, assistance, and direction that may be lacking in their home environment.
In addition to educating professionals, we also need to increase public awareness about the problem of prostituted children in local communities. Teaching the community about the profiles of potential runaways will help the community identify those children at risk. By doing so, communities can support their children and be better prepared to help them in their times of need.

The Importance of Education

The last and probably most important step to prevent the prostitution of children is to make our children aware of both the dangers on the streets and those that are inherent in prostitution. Prevention-education programs focus on teaching junior- and senior-high-school students about the dangers of prostitution and myths about sexual exploitation. It also empowers them to recognize someone who may be trying to coerce them into a life of prostitution. These educational programs should also inform children of available counseling services in their community. These programs need to be incorporated into the educational systems of all junior- and senior-high schools so that children can be made aware of the dangers of and ways to avoid a life of prostitution.

Source: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children