Tuesday, July 1, 2008

US: Hundreds of Girls Work the Streets of Seattle

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - For the first time in decades, Seattle is attempting to quantify an elusive population - teen prostitutes.

In a report called "Who Pays the Price? Assessment of Youth Involvement in Prostitution in Seattle," author Debra Boyer comes up with a conservative estimate of more than 200 juveniles involved in prostitution in Seattle.

On average, they started at age 14, and the vast majority had been sexually victimized at home. Street life extends the pattern.

Boyer says her figures, taken from case studies and police reports, are conservative estimates, but she says the case is clear that more services are needed for these children. She says safe housing to help girls escape violent pimps is nonexistent, outreach programs are understaffed and substance abuse and mental health counselors are not trained to help the teens.

"The inadequacy of community services for the population of youth who have come to the attention of the juvenile justice system is nothing less than shocking," wrote Boyer, a cultural anthropologist who has been studying street life for two decades. "Whose problem is it when a 12-year-old is being prostituted?"

Boyer's study comes at a time of renewed national attention to the problem. On Wednesday, federal investigators rounded up about 300 pimps and others accused of forcing children into prostitution in 17 cities. Seattle was not among them...


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