Lost Boys: New child-sex-trafficking research demolishes the stereotype of the underage sex worker

And sparks an outbreak of denial among child-sex-trafficking alarmists nationwide.

Back in the late '90s, she explains, Atlanta women had galvanized to prevent child prostitution. One juvenile-court judge in particular provided a catalyst when she instituted a screening process in her courtroom that was aimed at identifying kids who were engaging in prostitution.

The only children who were questioned about sex work were girls. Boys were never screened.

"The problem was very narrowly defined from the outset," Finn says.

Brian Stauffer
Researchers Ric Curtis (right) and Meredith Dank induced hundreds of New York's underage sex workers to open up about their "business." The findings upended the conventional wisdom — and galled narrow-minded advocates.
Ashlie Quinones
Researchers Ric Curtis (right) and Meredith Dank induced hundreds of New York's underage sex workers to open up about their "business." The findings upended the conventional wisdom — and galled narrow-minded advocates.

Details

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.

Related Stories

More About

"I'm a feminist scholar," she continues. "I understand the importance of these advocates — who are predominantly women, predominantly concerned about the plight of girls — wanting to retain that focus on that issue. But as a researcher, knowing that this is labeled as 'child exploitation,' and knowing that there are numbers in other cities showing boys are being victimized, I had to argue that this was maybe a small but significant population we had to look at."

Finn soon found herself facing a dilemma on the research front as well.

When Curtis and Dank put out the call for underage sex workers in New York, they were confident they'd be able to find space in an emergency shelter if they encountered an interview subject who appeared to be in immediate peril. Atlanta, on the other hand, was equipped with no emergency shelters for homeless youths. In the absence of any such backstop, Finn concluded, it would be unethical to go hunting for kids to interview.

So she went with Plan B: interviewing law-enforcement agents and social workers, examining arrest records, and mining a countywide database of child-sexual-abuse cases.

Despite the less-than-satisfactory secondary-source approach, Finn figured she would have plenty of data to mine. After all, she had seen breathless media reports of trafficking in Atlanta. "The overall market for sex with kids is booming in many parts of the U.S. In Atlanta — a thriving hotel and convention center with a sophisticated airport and ground transportation network — pimps and other lowlifes have tapped into that market bigtime," a 2006 New York Times story blared.

"I walked in thinking, This is going to be a huge priority for any agency that is dealing with at-risk youth. I mean, goodness, this must be at the top of their agenda for training, protocol — all of it."

On the contrary, Finn found that most organizations, whether nonprofit or government run, were not systematically documenting cases of child prostitution. Apart from 31 juvenile arrests police had made over a four-year period, there were virtually no numbers for her to compile.

"It was almost like nobody wants to document their existence," Finn says. "Whether it's because they don't want to label the youth, or they don't want other agencies to know they're aware of them because then the call comes — 'Well, what are you doing about it?' — I just don't know. It was very odd. The environment we were seeing in the media just looked so different from the environment we walked into."

In September 2008, just as Finn was preparing a summary of her scant findings, the Juvenile Justice Fund announced an ongoing statewide study based on "scientific probability methods," whose results pointed to "a significant number of adolescent girls being commercially sexually exploited in Georgia, likely ranging from 200 to 300 girls, on the streets, over the Internet, through escort services, and in major hotels every month from August 2007 to May 2008."

Published in 2010, the final report was nearly as ambiguous, though there were more — and even bigger — numbers. According to the Justice Fund's "scientific research study," underwritten with money from the Anderson Family Foundation, each month in Georgia, 7,200 men pay underage girls for 8,700 sex acts, "with an average of 300 acts a day." The report's authors updated their 2008 stat, increasing their underage-hooker count to 400.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution trumpeted the report's findings under the headline "City's shame remains; despite crackdowns, Atlanta is still a hub in selling children for sex."

The Journal-Constitution did not, however, inform its readers that the "scientific study" was undertaken not by researchers adhering to rigid academic standards, but by the Schapiro Group, an Atlanta public-relations firm hired by the Justice Fund.

Despite the claims to the contrary, there was nothing remotely "scientific" about the research. In order to gauge the number of men who pay for sex with underage girls, the PR firm observed activity at major hotels and on streets thought to be frequented by sex workers. Staffers also called escort services, posing as customers, to inquire into the possibility of hookups with adolescent girls. And they created online ads featuring photos of young-looking females and inviting prospective customers to call a phone number — a line answered by PR firm "operators" posing as pimps and madams. (For more about the Schapiro Group's dubious methods, see "Weird Science," written by Nick Pinto and published in the March 24 issue of New Times.)

Mary Finn is troubled by the murky provenance of the statistics, but more so by the time and effort wasted on sensationalizing a problem instead of addressing it.

"This shouldn't be a race to the top," she contends. "We should be mobilized for a single victimization. Why do we need 300 or 500 or 1,000 to mobilize as a community?

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
Swaneagle Harijan
Swaneagle Harijan

This article was published in Seattle Weekly, which is owned by Village Voice News, who funded this piece of CRAP article that is highly inaccurate.

Joeltaylor21
Joeltaylor21

You want to make $85 hourly and $7000 per month like me just working on laptop for few hours! Would you like to be your own boss!Opportunities like this don't come by often. Don't let this one pass you by! ead about it on this web site Read this site (===== CashHuge.com =====)

Joeltaylor21
Joeltaylor21

Lost Boys: New child-sex-trafficking research demolishes the stereotype of the underage sex worker...@readers:disqus you want to make $85 hourly and $7000 per month like me just working on laptop for few hours! Would you like to be your own boss!Opportunities like this don't come by often. Don't let this one pass you by! CashHuge.com

Joeltaylor21
Joeltaylor21

My best friend's mom made $185793 so far just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more... (=== CashHuge.com ===)

Terrence
Terrence

You want to make $85 hourly and $7000 per month like me just working on laptop for few hours! Would you like to be your own boss!Opportunities like this don't come by often. Don't let this one pass you by! ead about it on this web site Read this site (=====CashHuge.com=====)

Terrence
Terrence

You want to make $85 hourly and $7000 per month like me just working on laptop for few hours! Would you like to be your own boss!Opportunities like this don't come by often. Don't let this one pass you by! ead about it on this web site Read this site (=====CashHuge.com=====)

Mariamante
Mariamante

This article is very interesting. It doesn't deny the fact the children are being pimped, it simply says that children hooking on the streets have a large male population, and are in many cases there on their own. It makes perfect sense, as does the comment that these children are a symptom of a bigger problem of childhood sexual, physical, and mental abuse which are usually a package deal as far as childhood abuse goes.

Jeff Lewis
Jeff Lewis

Where are all the underage children kidnapped and forced against their will by a pimp to have sex with the general public for money?

How come we don’t see any of the forced victims themselves complaining about it? Why don’t the “millions of forced against their will child victims” talk about how they were kidnapped and forced against their will by a evil pimp to have sex for profit? I would like to have a interview with the “millions of forced against their will raped kidnapped child victims” So I could hear their stories.

Where are they? Why do we only hear from the anti-prostitution groups that received money and grants from the government, and not the millions of victims themselves? If there are Millions of them, Shouldn't the police and public know where they are, and shouldn't we hear the millions of victims speak?

Instead, none are found.

Do all men really love raping children who are kicking, crying and screaming, with no one willing to help? like the anti-prostitution groups say?

Here are some good websites about sex trafficking:

http://bebopper76.wordpress.co...

http://sextraffickingtruths.bl...

http://researchonhumantraffick...

http://sextraffickingvictims.b...

http://sextraffickingintheusa....

http://www.villagevoice.com/se...

http://www.melonfarmers.co.uk/...

SMDH
SMDH

I like how the comments disspelling this article were deleted. So much for VVM believing in the 1st Amendment.

SMDH
SMDH

The one study mentioned did not call escort services. they posed as escort services to see how many males sought out children to buy. Plus, if you good child prostitution and especially Backpage.com/Vilage Voice Media, you will see the arrests of pimps who are selling children, and NONE of those are paid....they are caught and sent home. MOST discuss how they were forced to stay and had to run for help.

This article is what's bogus. i've been following this and there are too many cases - proven cases - of children being pimped and on the internet they are being sold in much higher numbers than street walkers could ever get in a night. Its pretty vile.

This is a sad article. Its basically saying that children/teens are wanting to prostitute themselves. Even if that were true - since when did children become the best decision makers?

Jeremiah
Jeremiah

I'm interested in what you're saying. Can you point me in the direction of a scientifically guided study that covers the topic of online child sex trafficking?

Marcelhic
Marcelhic

The people who did the research have studied all kinds of other stuff, which is on their website, like meth-heads, pimps, prisoners, HIV, homosexuality.

www.snrg-nyc.org

Ray
Ray

I worked in the field of child abuse and neglect for 23 years. It is amazing what a well trained and skilled interviewer can drawer out from a child. The money pulls them in but your sincerity and caring allow you to get most of the facts. Kids know how to separate the BS from those who are just doing a job from those who really want to help.Much of the time you are able to determine who is trying to con you. Most people don't have the slittiest idea about what drives these kids to the street. Most have been abused or neglected by those they love and trust. The system has and is failing our youth. We wait until they commit a crime and are imprisoned and then spend millions to separate them from society and try to rehabilitate them.Let's open our eyes and ears and listen to the research that says it's not just the pimps that destroy these children but most often their parents. Oops ... let's not blame the parents they may be us.

Eduardo1garcia
Eduardo1garcia

Very interesting article. My only problem with it is that basically they paid for the information. How can we be sure of the accuracy of their testimony? Word got around that some guy was paying $20 dollars for an interview and all you had to do was make up some story and answer questions the best you can. $20 is a lot of money to a teenager. Motive to lie. Just saying.

elbastardo
elbastardo

Whether it's $20 for head or an interview, the reporter still gets their rocks off.

Norma Jean Almodovar
Norma Jean Almodovar

How do you think the prostitution prohibitionists gather their research? Or any other group who wants to gather information on a particular population? Do you even know how research is conducted?

Every researcher must offer SOMETHING of value to the populations they study. So whether it is the prostitution prohibitionists or those who conduct unbiased studies, if they want people to participate, they either give money or something else the participant can use or wants. If a participant is willing to 'lie' to an unbiased researcher who gets their funding from the government, aren't other participants in other, very biased research just as likely to lie for the money/goods they get? One of the reasons to interview as many individuals as possible within a group is to minimize the number of potentially false statements, and clearly, with the government funding this study, that was done.

 
Loading...