Rescued Child Prostitution Victims Have Nowhere to Go

In October, the FBI rescued 52 children from situations of sexual slavery across the U.S. Two months later, not a single one of those 52 girls is receiving rehabilitation services. Most of them are back at homes they ran away from or in foster care. One is in a juvenile detention center. Some are unaccounted for, possibly back on the streets through the revolving door of trafficking and re-trafficking. Why aren’t these girls getting the help they need?

Part of the answer is sheer math. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, there are only 44 beds in 4 shelters for child victims of sex trafficking in the whole U.S. That figure seems a little low, but I would be surprised if there are more than 100 beds in 6 or 7 shelters. And between the periodic large busts that net 50 or 100 victims at a time and individual victims being rescued almost every day, it’s not surprising that the need for services outweigh the availability.

So what happens to the girls who can’t find a bed in a shelter program? Sometimes they are sent to live with family members, which can be a good solution if they have family able to care for them. But many children involved in underage prostitution ran away from abuse, drug addiction, and/or neglect at home and will not be well-served to be returned to it. Other children are held in juvenile detention centers as material witnesses when that is the only way to keep them off the street. But locking crime victims up with offenders can have seriously traumatic consequences. Too many girls simply slip through system cracks and end up back with their pimp and on the streets.

Another reason beds and services are scarce is the high cost per child. These girls need intensive therapy, medical care, education and job skills, nutritious food, and trauma counseling. Helping a teen out of life on the streets and into a situation where she can support herself (and possibly her children or younger siblings) is expensive. The staff and resources needed to run recovery programs often limits organizations in the number of clients they can serve. Often, girls stay in programs for a number of years, until they are able to support themselves.

One way you can help provide safe places for victims of child sex trafficking to recover from their horrifying experiences and rebuild their lives is to financially support organizations that do provide shelter. The three organizations which the LA Times listed as currently providing beds are Children of the Night in Los Angeles, GEMS in New York, and Angela’s House in Atlanta. There are also at least two shelters on the verge of opening — Courtney’s House in Washington, DC, and Gracehaven House in Central Ohio. These programs are all in need of help to open their doors or expand their services to help more girls recover from being sold into prostitution.

All the successful FBI raids and rescue operations in the world are worthless if the victims have nowhere to go. Sending them back to abusive homes, locking them up in jail, or subjecting them to a revolving-door foster care and street system should not be options. Please consider supporting a shelter for victims of child prostitution to help end this tragedy.



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