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‘We can’t just be spectators’ (to child prostitution)

In our film, A Dance For Bethany, Bethany reached out from a life of being trafficked into prostitution at age 12 to an Investigative Reporter, Abbey Fisher (played by Robyn Lively,) and Abbey was able to help facilitate Bethany’s rescue.

Here are some disturbing facts about the issue of child prostitution, but there is hope. Please take the time to read through this interesting information:

Juvenile prostitution and the sex industry are flourishing. But we can protect our children from the crime of child prostitution-we can stop child prostitution.

By Sonia C. Solomonson - Fact Sheet:

More than 300,000 U.S. children are involved in prostitution. The average age to enter prostitution is 14.

A growing number of teens enter prostitution while living at home with parents in what appears to be a stable suburban or rural family, say studies on juvenile prostitution.

Child Prostitution

More than 300,000 U.S. children are involved in prostitution. The average age to enter prostitution is 14.

Just last year in Minnesota, the FBI and state law enforcement officials arrested 15 people who ran a multi million-dollar prostitution ring for more than 17 years in at least 24 states and Canada. The girls were forced to prostitute themselves for escort services and massage parlors. A report from the Minnesota attorney general’s office notes that two of the girls used by this ring are missing or dead.

In Eau Claire, WI, a man recently was charged with recruiting 18 local girls to prostitution, says Al Erickson, an ELCA pastor who 10 years ago founded Minneapolis-based A-STOP (Alliance for Speaking Truths About Prostitution). Writing after the Minnesota arrests, Erickson said, “The calamity is that even with the … family behind bars, there are hundreds of other predators still snaring our youth every day and many more jumping into the game. But we sit unmoved, without grieving, immobilized, confused or resigned, unable to come to terms with this reality. What do we need to do?”

That’s a question A-STOP and many other organizations nationwide are asking as the sex trade seeks younger and younger recruits, partly because of the fear of AIDS.

“We need to help our kids be savvy,” Erickson says, noting that pimps recruit in rural and suburban areas — as well as in metropolitan gathering places such as malls. “Some parents don’t want to talk about the sex industry. They feel it’ll go away if we don’t talk about it. But when we’re silenced, our kids become fair game.”

Susan Thistlethwaite, a professor of theology and president of Chicago Theological Seminary, couldn’t agree more: “The consequences of not talking about prostitution are that kids are left vulnerable and isolated. They don’t have information they need for protection.”

Thistlethwaite knows. She and Rita Nakashima Brock wrote Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States, for which they did firsthand interviews.

Both Erickson and Thistlethwaite advocate talking with young people about the sex industry and giving kids the tools to protect themselves. They point to elements in society that provide an atmosphere for the sex trade to flourish:

Patriarchal power structures


Brock and Thistlethwaite’s book says: “The social idea of male privilege — that women are the property of men and that the man should be the head of the relationship with a woman — supports pimping behavior by placing the control of women within the acceptable bounds of male-female relationships, a biblical model of hierarchy and male power long promoted by Christian churches (and still promoted by conservative ones).”

Thistlethwaite adds children and weaker males to those over whom control is sought. “That right to control bodies attacks the nature of humans at its most fundamental level: It robs them of the image of God,” she says.

For his part, Erickson tells other men: “We’ve been duped by the sex industry to think this is about our hormones, our entertainment, our rights. But what Jesus is calling us to see in Matthew 18:1-6 is that we have a choice as to how we will relate to vulnerable youth.”

A “boys will be boys” attitude


Casting Stones points out: “Sexual prowess is viewed as proof of masculinity, and many men learn their ideas of prowess from pornography and the media.” Such images “perpetuate the system that exploits the young and the weak,” Brock and Thistlethwaite say.

Erickson adds, “If we choose to use pornography, go to strip clubs, use escort services, etc., we are in effect joining with the pimping people to take advantage of abused, hurting or naïve youth who have been entrapped into selling themselves.”

The media’ s increasing influence


Sex is used to sell everything from pop to jeans. “We’re influenced by people we don’t know and whose values we don’t know,” Erickson says, “but they get to our minds through music and good actors. We’re overwhelmed.” So are kids.

From Hollywood, youth gain an image of prostitution as glamorous — the Pretty Woman syndrome. Recruiters feed that by promising a glorious future: money, cars, luxury, marriage, a home, Erickson says.

Thistlethwaite and Erickson agree that the proliferation of pornographic Web sites ups the ante. “Electronic communication acts like an accelerant as pornographic sites increase and there’s more child solicitation,” Thistlethwaite says. She urges parents: “Don’t be sanguine, these are powerful forces we’re up against.”

Thistlethwaite says she and her 15-year-old son talk often about these forces and she monitors his chat rooms. But she adds, “There’s no way to prevent this from happening. There isn’t screening software out there that my son can’t bypass. Most kids are far more savvy about computers than adults.”

An emphasis on parent as friend


“A lot of parents step off the court when their kids are 12 or 13,” Erickson says. “They say in effect, ‘I’ll be your friend but not your parent.’ But this issue calls us to a new level of parenting.

“We have other people who want our kids as badly as we do: pimps, drug lords and others. We need to interact with our kids.”

Thistlethwaite says, “Talk about everything with your kids.”

Role of churches, members


What can churches do? John Green, founder and executive director of the ecumenical, Chicago-based Emmaus Ministries, says “good churches, positive role models, people who care and parents who love” are needed. Street outreach to male prostitutes — who FBI reports show in 1995 comprised more than 42 percent of prostitutes arrested — is one of Emmaus’ ministries.

“Jesus told us to be lights in the darkness,” Green says. “We need to identify where the dark places are and go there. We really want to be comfortable and secure — but those aren’t gospel values. What does it really mean to live justly and walk humbly with God?”

Green suggests that congregations can:

Reach out to those who don’t have the safety net of family, friends or congregations. Intervene with families in trouble.

Erickson concurs, saying, “We can’t just be spectators. We have to get on the court.”

©2000 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Permission granted to Adults Saving Kids (formerly called A-STOP) to reprint this article on the A-STOP website.
Resources
Available from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, (800) 328-4648:

Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States by Rita Nakashima Brock and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite (paperback $25; ISBN 0800629795).

“Safe Haven for Children,” a folder of tools and information. Visit www.elca.org/init/safehaven.

“Wise as Serpents,” youth curriculum, video and discussion guides to equip youth to resist sexual exploitation by A-STOP, Alliance for Speaking Truths on Prostitution.

Other materials:

The STOP Light, newsletter of [Adults Saving Kids --formerly A-STOP (Alliance for Speaking Truths on Prostitution)], Minneapolis, (612) 872-0684. Obtain youth leader training, videos and a speaker.

Emmaus Ministries, Chicago, an ecumenical ministry with a street outreach to male prostitutes. Call (773) 334-6063 or visit http://www.streets.org..

Web sites: www.talkingwithkids.org, www.missingkids.com, www.childrenofthenight.org and www.paulandlisa.org.

How to prevent child sexual exploitation Know where your children are at all times. Be familiar with their friends and activities.

Be sensitive to changes in your children’s behavior. Take time to talk to your children about what caused the changes.

Be alert to a teenager or adult who pays an unusual amount of attention to your children or gives them inappropriate or expensive gifts.

Teach your children to trust their own feelings and assure them they have the right to say no to what they sense is wrong.

Listen carefully to your children’s fears and be supportive in all your discussions with them.

Safety rules to share with your children


If you are in a public place and get separated from your parent, don’t wander around looking for him or her. Go to a checkout counter, security office or the lost-and-found.

If someone follows you on foot or in a car, stay away from him or her. You don’t need to go near a car to talk to the people inside.

No one should ask you for directions or to look for a “lost puppy” or tell you that your mother or father is in trouble and that he or she will take you to your parents.

If someone tries to take you somewhere, quickly get away from him or her and yell, “This person is trying to take me away” or “This person is not my father or mother.”

You should try to use the “buddy system” and never go places alone.

No one should ask you to keep a special secret. If he or she does, tell your parents or teacher.

If someone wants to take your picture, tell him or her no and tell your parents or teacher.

We are worth more !

NATIONAL CHILDREN S ALLIANCE – FIND a nearby location
Child Advocacy Centers throughout U.S.
Empowering local communities to serve child victims of abuse



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