Thursday, August 14, 2008

NYT Editorial: Prostitution and Prevention

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL - Child prostitution, a large and growing problem across the United States, is especially severe in tourist and convention cities. Atlanta, for example, has been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as one of 14 American cities with the highest rates of child prostitution. Georgia’s lawmakers, religious groups and juvenile justice advocates are taking this issue very seriously, but they may miss an important opportunity unless they focus on programs that have a lasting impact on the lives of Georgia’s most vulnerable children.

State lawmakers will be tempted to ratchet up penalties for the crime of child prostitution and declare the problem solved. But Georgia already has very tough laws in this area. Like the rest of the states, it needs to significantly expand treatment programs for sexually exploited children. And even more important, it needs to broaden community-based prevention programs that spot and help troubled children before they end up selling their bodies on the streets.

A report earlier this year by the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at Emory University estimated that hundreds of children were being used as prostitutes throughout Georgia. They come from troubled families and often have histories of truancy. They typically run away from home after being sexually abused.

Once on the street, they face increased risks of being battered or killed. They are also likely to experience drug addiction or psychiatric disorders and contract — and spread — diseases. They may eventually recreate their personal disasters in the lives of their children...


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