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 Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid