What comes to your mind when you hear the word, prostitute? Do you picture something like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? You know, a “working girl” who happened to choose the “oldest profession in the world” to make her living? Do you see someone dirty, crass, and really into sex who thought she might as well make money at what she loves? What do you see in your mind’s eye when you try to picture a prostitute? If you were to ask me this a few months ago I would probably describe a prostitute as a woman wearing too much make up and too little clothing and who chooses to sell her body for money. But these days the image of the prostitute girl has begun to come in a little clearer. And it’s not what I thought.
Did you know the average age a person becomes a prostitute in the United States is 12-14 years old? 12 years old! That’s a child. That’s right. Child prostitution is happening in the United States. And it’s the NORM. Now how does a 12-14 year old get into the “oldest profession?” Not on their own that’s for sure.
It’s starts out something like this: she meets someone. He’s a little older but he tells her she’s beautiful. Special. He takes her shopping. Buys her gifts and makes her feel like he’ll always provide for her and take care of her. That he loves her. He gets to know her hopes and fears. Maybe meets her family. Tells her she’s too mature to let her parents tell her what to do all the time. Tells her she can live with him. Then he rapes her. He tricks her, coerces her, beats her, breaks her– sells her… because he owns her.
He owns her because she is now completely dependent on him for clothes, shelter, affection. He owns her because she knows he’ll kill her, she knows it, unless she makes him money. He brands her with his sign — tattoos his name in her skin. He puts a price tag on her (figuratively and sometimes literally). He takes her out of her home town from city to city where she won’t get help and he won’t get caught.
Does this sound like she’s working or more like she’s enslaved?
My concept of a prostitute was inaccurate on many counts. When I picture a WOMAN I’m wrong because she probably started when she was a GIRL (or BOY for the guys). When I see her as CHOOSING I don’t realize she’s probably been COERCED. I thought a prostitute SELLS HER BODY, but in actuality her body has been claimed as someones PROPERTY so how can SHE sell it? And last but not least I thought she did it for MONEY, but I now see the prostitute does it for so much more. She does it for SURVIVAL. To survive the wrath of her owner — I mean pimp — for one more day.
I’m still learning everyday about human trafficking. It turns out that it’s as close as the street corner. Here’s a little of what I’m reading/watching.
Watch an ABC Nightline clip on teen prostitution in America.