News / USA

California Center Helps Teens Escape Prostitution

Center Helps Teens Escape Prostitutioni
X
January 30, 2014 1:40 AM
Teenagers who run away from home can fall into the hands of a pimp or gang and be sold for prostitution. But as VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports - for 35 years, a Los Angeles-based charity called Children of the Night has helped young girls, and sometimes boys, escape a life on the streets.
Mike O'Sullivan
— Teenagers who run away from home can fall into the hands of a pimp or gang and be sold for prostitution. But, for 35 years, a Los Angeles-based charity called Children of the Night has helped young girls, and sometimes boys, escape a life on the streets.
 
Their backgrounds are similar.  They tend to come from troubled and sometimes abusive homes, then get involved with the wrong kind of friends. 
 
For 16-year-old Sarah, the brush with prostitution happened a year ago.  Her mother was a drug addict, and Sarah was sent to foster homes.  She ran away, and a girl she considered a friend sold her to a pimp.
 
“I really thought I could trust her.  She was like, okay. We need to make money somehow because we don't have jobs and we need a place to live.  And she was, like, I can steal from people, and you're really pretty.  And right then I was, like, oh, I know what that means,” said Sarah.
 
Sarah says she had one client and then ran to a nearby shop pleading for help.  The police were called and referred her to the Los Angeles-based charity Children of the Night.
 
At its center, girls and sometimes boys can get counseling, and an education.  Some of the teens live at the center while they're being helped.  The group's founder, Lois Lee, says things have changed since she started this work 35 years ago.
 
“Prostitution's been moved off the streets, because of violence on the streets because of guns, and so a lot of it has gone to Internet advertising,” said Lee.
 
In response to criticism, the website Craigslist  stopped running online ads for adult services in 2010.  One site that still runs them has formed an unlikely alliance with Children of the Night.   Backpage.com is now alerting its users to the problem of underage prostitutes. 
 
Elizabeth McDougall, an attorney for Backpage, defends the site's ads for adult services.
 
“The Internet is global, and the content will not go away.  It will just go offshore.  And when it goes offshore, you lose the ability to access that evidence to rescue the kids and to convict the perpetrators,” said McDougall.
 
McDougall says workers for the website also block ads that suggest abuse of children, then forward the information to a national center that helps minors who have been abused.
 
Local police once viewed these teenagers as criminals, but not today, says detective Andre Dawson of the Los Angeles Police Department.
 
“We don't look at these girls as being prostitutes.  We rescue these girls and we understand the dynamics of them being victims.  And that's one of things that we're trying to provide training through the rest of the state, and quite frankly, the rest of the country,” said Dawson.
 
For Sarah, finishing high school could open the door to college.  In the meantime, she says that she's thriving in her new environment.
 
“They got me clothes, they feed me, I have a roof over my head, and it really brought out my self-worth,” she said.
 
Sarah hopes to study art and follow in the footsteps of thousands who have come through here and gone on to have families and careers.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid