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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid