When children, teens in particular, are tossed aside by their guardians they are extremely vulnerable to the lecherous side of society. One of the more devious class are the pimps. Men that groom and work these young kids, who are often homeless, into sexually exploitative situations first befriend them and gain their trust. They buy them the basics to survive and kids being so desperate for food, clothing, shelter and love, accept these back-handed promises while talking themselves into believing that this is all they deserve in life. When the pimp grooms them and then later controls them with force, it is extremely difficult to identify them. They move or are moved and don’t trust adults, especially law enforcement. Often, they don’t think of themselves as victims. Still, there is hope. Some signs to identify them include:
- Highly controlled or restricted schedule, money or communications
- Unidentifiable source of income
- Unexplained absences of days at a time
- Unexplained source of new clothing and personal items
- Bruises or other physical signs of abuse
- A tattoo that the young person is reluctant to explain (for instance, being “branded” with an exploiter’s name on the neck, chest or arms)
- Isolation from family, friends or other social networks
- Secrecy or vagueness about whereabouts
- Gaps in life story or defensiveness in response to questions or concerns
- Paranoia or lack of trust
- Self-blame or feelings of humiliation or shame
- Disassociation or lack of connection to the outside world
- Untreated health and dental problems
No one chooses to be sexually exploited. A child doesn’t say one day “I want to be sold for money”. But when it happens, it didn’t happen overnight. It can take a long time for a teen to overcome a life wrought with abuse and degradation. Be patient, be aware and above all don’t judge. These kids deserve a better life.
For further information please visit the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth website.