News / USA

Teenage Prostitutes Find Help at Los Angeles Charity

Children of the Night founder Lois Lee and teacher Sonia Ventura in the charity's schoolroom (VOA photo M. O'Sullivan)Children of the Night founder Lois Lee and teacher Sonia Ventura in the charity's schoolroom (VOA photo M. O'Sullivan)
x
Children of the Night founder Lois Lee and teacher Sonia Ventura in the charity's schoolroom (VOA photo M. O'Sullivan)
Children of the Night founder Lois Lee and teacher Sonia Ventura in the charity's schoolroom (VOA photo M. O'Sullivan)
Mike O'Sullivan
— The Los Angeles charity Children of the Night helps teenage prostitutes turn their lives around and get an education. Many say their problems began at home, and they got little help from teachers and others around them.  

Alyssa, who is now 15, was exposed to violence and drug use from an early age.  When she was 14, she stayed with her older sister for the weekend.  Her sister and her friends used a drug called crystal meth, a powerful form of methamphetamine.  They forced Alyssa to try it.  

“They needed a way to make money so that they could get more drugs and be able to do something over the weekend.  So they made me take nude pictures and they made a trick come over,” Alyssa said.

Alyssa says the trick, her first customer, paid for oral sex.  

Her sister then introduced Alyssa to a pimp, who put her to work as a prostitute.   She later returned home but was lured back to the streets, and her sister introduced her to a second pimp.

“He forced me to turn tricks in the hotel room all day.  I couldn't leave, I couldn't eat, I couldn't do anything.  I couldn't talk to my family any more,” Alyssa said.

An arrest would lead Alyssa to the charity Children of the Night.  She is now doing well in school and hopes to become a doctor.

Los Angeles Police Department vice officer Shaun King encounters girls like Alyssa in his investigations into human trafficking.  He works with Children of the Night to get them help.  He says their pimps are street-smart manipulators and that they know how to control a vulnerable teenager who needs support and approval.

“She's just got that multiplied times 10 because of her background.  So she latches onto him and he manipulates that.  And ultimately, after a short amount of time of grooming her, he'll open her up to the idea that she's got to contribute to help them make it in the world,” King said.

Amber, who is 17, grew up in a stable home but became a heavy user of methamphetamine.  She ran away from home repeatedly and teamed up with a pimp to became a prostitute.  They advertised for customers on an Internet site, listing her phone number.

“They would contact my phone and I would answer.  And I would have to talk to them and figure out prices, and then he would drive me to their house and he would stay there to make sure I was OK,” Amber said.

She says her pimp was not violent, as many are, and she believed he loved her.

“One day, I just kept on telling him, 'we need to stop.  Can't we just be normal?  Can't we just be together?  Can you love me for who I am?  I don't want to do this any more.'   He was like, 'No, it's OK, it's OK.  Everything's going to be fine,' and just would assure me that everything was OK, but I kept on telling him, 'let's stop.'  And that day I told him to stop, that's when we got caught,” Amber said.

Amber learned of Children of the Night from federal agents who detained her and arrested her pimp.  He is serving a sentence of 10 years in prison.  

The charity now provides a home for 19 teenagers.  It has an on-site school and some students have competed in statewide science fairs and won academic honors.  Children of the Night founder Lois Lee says that each year, a number continue on to college.

“Many of our children do turn their lives around.  Some of them are professionals.  Some of them are teachers running inner city schools.  Some of them work in public relations.  Some of them work as executives in other corporations,” Lee said.

Several are now attending law school.

Lee says the problems for most begin at an early age, with physical and sexual abuse.

“These children were sexually abused at the hands of their first caregivers, and until we do something about that issue, we're not going to do anything about child prostitution,” Lee said.

For teens like Amber, a safe atmosphere has made the difference.  She has made friends with kids who are overcoming similar problems.

“We are pretty much all the same and we can look at each other and look up to each other and make sure that we're all doing well.  We bond like a family,” Amber said.

Amber says she now has a good relationship with her own family.

Alyssa's home life was more turbulent, filled with drugs and violence.

“And I don't believe that I got the support that I needed as a kid,” Alyssa said.

She says teachers and counselors ignored the warning signs, even after learning of drug use and prostitution in her family.  

Amber says the atmosphere in her home was better, but that police and social workers should also have intervened as she ran away from home and started getting into trouble.  Both girls say they are now getting the support they need and that they look forward to a better future.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
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.
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.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid