By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
Nine months later, Dank and Curtis had far surpassed their goal, completing interviews with 249 underage prostitutes. From that data, they were able to put a number on the total population of New York’s teen sex workers: 3,946.
Most astonishing to the researchers was the demographic profile teased out by the study. Published by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2008, Curtis and Dank’s findings thoroughly obliterated the long-held core assumptions about underage prostitution:
• Nearly half of the kids—about 45 percent—were boys.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Village Voice Media, which owns this publication, owns the classified site Backpage.com. In addition to used cars, jobs and couches, readers can also find adult ads on Backpage; for this reason, certain activists and clergy members have called attention to the site, sometimes going so far as to call for its closure.
Certainly we have a stake in this discussion. And we do not object to those who suggest an apparent conflict of interest. We sat quietly and did not respond as activists held symposiums across America—from Seattle to Miami—denouncing Backpage. Indeed, we were never asked for response.
But then we looked at the "science" behind many of these activists' claims, and the media's willingness, without question, to regurgitate a litany of incredible statistics. In the interest of a more informed discussion, we decided to write.
• Only 10 percent were involved with a “market facilitator” (e.g., a pimp).
• About 45 percent got into the “business” through friends.
• More than 90 percent were U.S.-born (56 percent were New York City natives).
• On average, they started hooking at age 15.
• Most serviced men—preferably white and wealthy.
• Most deals were struck on the street.
• Almost 70 percent of the kids said they’d sought assistance at a youth-service agency at least once.
• Nearly all of the youths—95 percent—said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.
In other words, the typical kid who is commercially exploited for sex in New York City is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp.
Nearly all the boys and girls involved in the city’s sex trade are going it alone.
Ric Curtis and Meredith Dank were amazed by what their research had revealed. But they were completely unprepared for the way law-enforcement officials and child-advocacy groups reacted to John Jay’s groundbreaking study.
“I remember going to a meeting in Manhattan where they had a lot of prosecutors there whose job was to prosecute pimps,” Curtis recalls. “They were sort of complaining about the fact that their offices were very well staffed but their workload was—not very daunting, let’s say. They had a couple cases, and at every meeting you go to, they’d pull out the cherry-picked case of this pimp they had busted, and they’d tell the same story at every meeting. They too were bothered by the fact that they couldn’t find any pimps, any girls.
“So I come along and say, ‘I found 300 kids’—they’re all perky—but then I say, ‘I’m sorry, but only 10 percent had pimps.’
“It was like a fart in church. Because basically I was saying their office was a waste of time and money.”
Jay Albanese, a criminologist at Virginia Commonwealth University who headed up the Justice Department’s research arm for four years, says the findings of the John Jay study are among the most interesting he has seen.
“Whether you are a kid or an adult, the issue becomes: To what extent is this voluntary?” Albanese says. “Because you make more money in this than being a secretary? Or because you really have no choices—like, you’re running from abuse or caught up in drugs? The question becomes: If Curtis is correct, what do we do with that 90 percent? Do we ignore it? How hard do we look at how they got into that circumstance? You could make the case that for the 90 percent for whom they couldn’t find any pimping going on—well, how does it happen?
“It’s a very valid question,” Albanese continues. “A policy question: To what extent should the public and the public’s money be devoted to these issues, whether it’s child prostitution or child pimping?”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the only agency that keeps track of how many children the legal system rescues from pimps nationwide. The count, which began in June 2003, now exceeds 1,600 as of April of this year, according to the FBI’s Innocence Lost website [http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/cac/innocencelost]—an average of about 200 each year.
Through interviews and analysis of public records, Village Voice Media has found that the federal government spends about $20 million a year on public awareness, victims’ services, and police work related to domestic human trafficking, with a considerable focus on combating the pimping of children. An additional $50 million-plus is spent annually on youth homeless shelters, and since 1996, taxpayers have contributed a total of $186 million to fund a separate program that provides street outreach to kids who might be at risk of commercial sexual exploitation.
That’s at least $80 million doled out annually for law enforcement and social services that combine to rescue approximately 200 child prostitutes every year.
These agencies might improve upon their $400,000-per-rescued-child average if they joined in the effort to develop a clearer picture of the population they aim to aid. But there’s no incentive for them to do so when they stand to rake in even more public money simply by staying the course.
More than the women it's the men with vaginas that are creating havoc. Grow up...you don't need to suck up to some ideology to feel like a man. It's disgusting how mass mentality that should be guided by philosophy (male dominated) is being shaped by less long-ranged thinking. Eventually the women suffer as much as the men.
Rape apologist bullshit. Sure, you did a study. Cute. Now start actually giving a shit about the kids beyond trying to cover your asses for the Backpage scandal.
What on earth...?
The whole article was about giving a shit about them. How do you think they can be helped without studying them? And how does any of the above have anything to do with excusing rape?
You didn't bother to read the article, did you? Your response is typical of a feminist ideologue, who has had their precious world view trashed.
I had a class with Ric at John Jay. I think it was Psych 110...drug and alcohol addiction (cross-listed with Sociology 110 and Anthropology 110). He was one of my favorite professors and if there's one thing I learned about him is that he has balls. He's a short guy like me, maybe 5'7" or so and white, but he will go to the ghetto and do his research. I'd recommend his classes to anyone. You'll learn a lot from him.
on Nov 30th ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution & Trafficking) will host its 20th Anniversary Fundraiser. I will love to extend an invitation and have someone or Kristen Hinman cover the event.
Curtis was my professor in college and he is a very brave man. He is willing to explore areas of the city and expose what really happens on our streets in NYC.
Sex Trafficking/Slavery is used by many groups as a attempt to outlaw all prostitution around the world by saying that all women are victims even if they do it willing. This hurts any real victims because it labels all sex workers as victims.
This is done by the media, aid groups, NGO’s, feminists, politicians, and religious organizations that receive funds from the government. There are very strong groups who promote that all adult women who have sex are victims even if they are willing, enjoy it and go out of there way to get it. These groups try to get the public to believe that no adult women in their right mind would ever go into the sex business unless she was forced to do so, weather she knew it or not. They say that 100% of all sex workers are trafficking victims.
They do this in order to label all men as sex offenders and wipe out all consensual prostitution. Which is what their real goal is. There is almost no one who challenges or questions them about their false beliefs. Therefore, the only voices you hear are of these extreme groups. These groups want to label all men as terrible sex offenders for seeing a willing adult woman. No one stands up to say this is foolish, the passive public says nothing.
These groups even say that all men who marry foreign women are terrible sex predators who take advantage of these "helpless foreign women wives".
These groups believe that two adults having consensual sex in private should be outlawed. Since they believe that it is impossible for a man to have sex with a woman without abusing the woman in the process.
Here are some good websites about sex trafficking:
For any one in the sex industry or who has researched it, the difference between someone lying about their involvement and someone actually involved is obvious.
As someone with experience, who knows many individuals who entered as teens, the study reflects the experiences of people I know.
For more information about the experiences and agency of young women of color in the sex industry, please refer to the following website:
This study is awful. Teens who are pimped out are TRAINED by the pimp to never ever give up the pimp - not even when they are arrested. They will lie through their teeth to protect their pimps. And how do we know that these children are telling the truth? Many kids lie to get money, especially if they have no support. There was a huge incentive for these kids to refer other prostituted children. How can the researchers prove that that the kids were prostituted? This study is highly flawed!! What a waste of funding!
In response to Cathy's comment:
In addition to family members, it was widely expected that pimps and so-called“boyfriends” would be a primary route into CSEC markets for youth, especially girls (see section below on “market facilitators”). Pimps were clearly a route into the market for some girls (n=19, 16%), but only one boy and no transgender youth reported being recruited into the market by pimps. As reported in the methods section above, the project made extra efforts to recruit pimped girls, and while it seems likely that they were more difficult to recruit than youth that did not have pimps, there is little reason to believe that the proportion of pimped girls in the CSEC population was much higher than what is reported here. Indeed, when asked how many pimps they “know,” out of 93 youth that responded, 44 reported “none”, and others offered relatively low numbers.
Among the girls that blamed pimps for their entry into the CSEC market, some of themsaid that they were not at all surprised or alarmed when they were approached by pimps whotried to recruit them. Initially, the pimps seemed to offer options that appeared somewhatattractive to the girls, and certainly better than what group homes or the shelter system seemed to offer them. For example, one 17-year old female from the Bronx described meeting a pimp at a homeless shelter where she had multiple problems:
He found me at Franklin Shelter in the Bronx. We was outside. It’s a lotta pimps outthere. I know a whole lot of ‘em. So one day, I was in a bad situation because I wasgettin’ kicked out because I got into a fight, so he offered to let me stay in a hotel withhim. So, I packed my stuff and I left wit’ him. (1035)
Unfortunately the study may be fundamentally flawed by it's use of social networking with coupons to select subjects. Anyone controlled by a pimp could be severely restricted in their social contacts, and less likely to be allowed to take part in an interview. So the methodology of the study may select for sex workers without pimps.
And yet the research conducted by virulently anti- prostitution folks like Farley and Hughes which starts out with the premise that ALL prostitution exploits ALL women is not fundamentally flawed? The so called "facts" on prostitution are constantly repeated by every one of those prohibitionists, without so much as a citation to the alleged study to which it refers so that no one can do their own investigation to find out how the study was conducted, whether or not there was a control group, how the participants were selected etc. Do you know how these so called (prohibitionist) researchers select their participants? Do you know that if interviewing a segment of the prostitution community will not give them the results they seek, they leave us out entirely? But no one questions the validity of these 'studies'... because you all want to believe the bovine excrement that is pedaled by the religious right and the radical feminists who believe that ALL sex work exploits ALL women...
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The folks who did the research have their report on their website along with research on methheads, prisoners, HIV, pimps, and indigenous arctic alcoholics
the researchers have a website with all kinds of strange research -- methheads, arctic alcoholics, HIV, prisoners, and pimps --etc.
Interesting about Atlanta. When the cops and the feds - and for that matter, government agents anywhere in the world- conduct a ‘rescue’ raid, generally speaking all persons of any age who are suspected of being prostitutes or of being ‘victims of sex trafficking’ are rounded up and herded into custody. Handcuffed. Chained to each other. Put into jail cells. Strip- searched. Treated like vicious criminals. And that is as it should be, according to some wonderful Christian ladies of the Georgia Eagle Forum. Women like Sue Ella Deadwyler, publisher of Georgia Insight, who stated- in opposition to the brave Republican Georgia state senator Renee Unterman who introduced a bill that would steer girls under the age of 16 into diversionary programs instead of arresting them as prostitutes- “Arrest is a valuable life-saving tool that must be used. We need to hire more cops to arrest the prostitutes.” She said that she believes that arrest is a better deterrent than a proposal for rehabilitation — no matter the age. “Sure there are those who are forced into prostitution, but I think most of them volunteer,” Deadwyler said of under 16-year-old prostitutes. “Many, many children have been scared straight because of arrest.” Of course.
One of her colleagues argues, “We cannot repeal the prostitution law for children, because that law acts as a very real barrier that protects children from sexual predators that would, otherwise, feel free to lure them into prostitution....Have we forgotten that correction oftentimes turns a life around?”
Unfortunately for those who are arrested, going to jail is not a safe place for those victimized youth either, as the May 5, 2011 Economist notes, "Sexual abuse in prison is distressingly common: the Justice Department estimated that more than 217,000 prisoners, including at least 17,000 juveniles, were raped or sexually abused in America in 2008." Clearly we ought not to be taking children off the street who sell sex, arrest them because they are being "sexually exploited" and then expose those 'victims' to rape at the hands of their keepers or other inmates, ought we? At $400,000 per rescue, surely we can use some of that money to give them a good home where they will not be sexually exploited by anyone, can't we?