A Moment in History is About to Occur for America's Child Sex Trafficking Movement
Women from Across the United States Will Reunite October 27th to Thank Donors Who Have Given $40 Million Over the Past 36 Years to Help Make Their Successful Lives Possible
Today, these successful women work in various fields including banking, firefighting, teaching, drug counseling and domestic violence advocacy. Juli works as an advocate for a Police Department and is headed for law school. Lynne is retired Homeland Security.
These women are a testament of what can be done when resources are available and case management, education and long term support is provided by skilled, credentialed professionals.
America's child sex trafficking epidemic began in the late 70's. In 1981, the General Accounting Office estimated there were 600,000 American children under the age of 16 working as prostitutes in the United States. On July 9th, 1993, Honorable Janet Reno made a commitment for the Department of Justice to intervene in the rescue of these children and the arrest and prosecution of some of America's most vile pimps.
She brought the United States Prosecutors and the FBI to the table and led the creation of Federal Laws resulting in 20, 40, 60, 80 years of prison for pimps who raped, tortured and kidnapped American children for purposes of prostitution.
By the year 2003, estimates of children working as prostitutes in the United States dropped to 300,000 and by 2009 the estimates dropped to 100,000.
America's child sex trafficking epidemic was unintentionally created when Congress amended the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act in the late 70's. Congress's intent was to prevent the nationwide criminalization of children for status offenses (curfew, truancy, runaway) and to prohibit the police from bringing minor children into a station house if there was any possibility of eye contact with an adult offender.
The legislation went further and provided for the elimination of federal funds for the State's juvenile detention facilities should local police violate the above policy.
As a result, the streets of our nation were inadvertently flooded with children who flaunted their newfound freedom in the face of police. The law of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" was no longer an effective tool to protect children from dangerous, exploitive adults.
The "customer of the prostitute" witnessed children on the streets, dressed in cutoff jeans, midriff tee-shirts and bare feet. These children were without money, food, housing and supervision. Men in Hollywood who paid these children for sex frequently remarked "At least I give these children money for food to eat and a place to sleep."
Shelters for children were scarce and barely on the horizon in the late 70's. The first shelter homes for runaways were developed for children who could be counseled by college interns and returned home within 7 days.
Children escaping homes characterized by physical or sexual abuse, mental illness, substance abuse and/or domestic violence were not eligible for these shelters because prostituted children could not be returned home in 7 days and their parents' problems could not be addressed by student interns.
Children quickly learned that men were willing to pay them for sex so they could rent a hotel for friends, buy food to eat and drugs to cope with the pain and harm resulting from life on the streets. Pimps recognized the children as a commodity and the streets of our nation became a sexual supermarket.
Some children turned to pornography. Even the professional adult pornographers were unable to stop their lab technicians and amateur filmmakers from exploiting these children, often resulting in long prison sentences for the professionals who had avoided all contact with minors in their businesses in the past.
Other children turned to one another and lived in abandoned buildings and were often dominated by serious felons and/or parolees who handed out their own punishments of rape and torture.
In the 80's these children were some of the first victims of the HIV virus and suffered and died without medication. Others were murdered or committed suicide.
Traditional county social workers who normally care for abused, neglected and abandoned children refused services to these children because "prostitution was a crime." Meanwhile, juvenile court judges refused to adjudicate these children as crime violators and place them in group homes or treatment programs because prostitution was not a "property crime" but rather a "victimless crime" not warranting the expenditure of taxpayer funds--these children were "only hurting themselves."
A mother told reporters about her 11 year old daughter who was on the street with a 48 year old parolee pimp "Prince Price." When she asked the uniformed police officer across the street to intervene and help her daughter, he said, "Ma'am, I can't do anything unless she testifies he is pimping her." And after a short pause, he said "Better yet, if she will testify, have her testify that he had sex with her because I can put him in jail longer."
The epidemic of child prostitution in America was in full force and our traditional system of care for children was both unwilling and unable to respond to prostituted children who needed help - help that often meant the difference between life and death. These children fell between the cracks of our system.
Children of the Night was created in 1979 in response to these alarming circumstances that forced American children, some as young as 11 years old, into prostitution for food to eat and a place to sleep.
On October 27th, 2015 successful adult women will travel from Texas, Minneapolis, Hawaii, Oregon and Los Angeles to tell of their struggles, their successful adult lives and thank the donors who gave Children of the Night over $40 million dollars to develop and operate the largest and most comprehensive child sex trafficking program in the world.
At the event, Children of the Night will unveil selected archival photos, news, print and film detailing 36 years of life on the streets for American children. These archives represent photos from Associated Press, articles from the Los Angeles Times and film from CBS 60 Minutes, Peter Jennings World News Tonight and local news.