My Life, My Choice.

Preventing the prostitution of adolescent girls.

There are an estimated 300,000 sexually exploited children in the U.S. The Home for Little Wanderers would like to dispel some myths regarding the prostitution of adolescent girls and shed light on the community resources available to girls in need.

One myth is that girls choose prostitution. In fact the majority are targeted for it. The average age of recruitment nationally and here in Massachusetts is 13-16.* Girls are deceived, manipulated or coerced into prostitution every day. Pimps target vulnerable young people in places where youth congregate: malls, schools, MBTA stations, all-age nightclubs. They seduce, befriend and lure them into prostitution. They kidnap, torture and rape, forcing girls to prostitute.

Many believe prostitution is a victimless crime — a simple contract between two consenting parties. The reality is that most often one of those parties cannot consent in any real way. If you are told that you must "work" or you will be beaten, or that your loved ones will be harmed, are you truly consenting?

Today, sexually exploited girls are consistently exposed to HIV, other STDs, violence and degradation. A large percentage develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Like soldiers returning from a war zone, these girls are damaged — mind, body, and soul — by their experiences. Yet they must return to that war zone every night.

In January 2002 The Home for Little Wanderers and the Department of Social Services (DSS) launched My Life My Choice. Informed by sexual exploitation survivors, this project provides young people with the skills and knowledge they need to avoid this profoundly destructive lifestyle. The Home offers a ten-week prevention program in group homes. What’s more, we train adults who work with youth to recognize the ruthless, manipulative tactics of pimps, and the signs of a girl’s involvement.

Providing a safety net for girls in need requires commitment and collaboration. The program’s early successes have been made possible through the combined efforts of DSS, the Teen Prostitution Prevention Project at the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Boston Police Department Human Trafficking Division, the Department of Youth Services, and the A Way Back Program of Roxbury Youthworks. For more information, call 888-Home-321.

*The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1999.

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