Child prostitution is a social scourge. Not a day goes by without news around the country where a minor is being sexually exploited by adults seeking to make money, or by unscrupulous clients satisfying their urges. It should surprise no one that immigrant girls are among the most vulnerable to fall into the hands of those individuals.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) estimated some time ago that almost 300,000 kids are in risk of being exploited, and that 40% of all human traffic investigated between January 2008 and June 2010 involved minors. Meanwhile, according to a 2010 report by the Justice Department, the median age of girls when they enter prostitution is between 13 and 14 years old.
Specialists say that problems at home are one of the main reasons why minors run away. That leaves the girl exposed to homelessness, and depending on men who go from being boyfriends first to exploiters.
It is estimated that in more than 80% of human traffic cases involving minor prostitution, the victims are U.S. citizens. However, immigrant girls are the ones in a more vulnerable situation.
They go through the same family problems than their U.S. counterparts, but uprooting and the challenges of a new society add more pressure to the family unit. Poverty, lack of papers and minority leave these girls in a much more fragile situation, where the menace of deportation discourages any attempt to resort to the authorities for help to escape the nightmare.
In recent times, law enforcement has been harsher on the pimps, their exploiters and clients. An exemplary punishment for those individuals is the way to fight this crime.
As for the minors, it is necessary to see them as victims and not criminals; as girls whose childhood and adolescence is being destroyed, instead of bad apples. It is estimated that 40% of prostitutes were forced into that profession as children. It is essential that we reduce the terrible statistics, while understanding the crisis they have been through and helping them reconstruct their young lives.