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.

"I guess that's what is most disheartening about the [dubious] numerical information that's coming out: We may not be putting resources where we need to put them, because we don't have a clear grasp of what the underlying problem is."

Anyone curious about the underlying problem in New York City can find numerous clues within the 122-page report documenting the several hundred in-person interviews at the core of the John Jay College study.

There are, for instance, the state-run group homes for orphans and kids whose families have kicked them out:

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.

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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.

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"[H]e was like, you know, the little leeches that linger around," a girl said of being picked up by a pimp outside the group home where she resided at age 15. "And I was sittin' on my steps and I was cryin' because they're givin' you allowance — $20-sumpin' a week — and then you're not allowed to do certain types of jobs because you have a curfew. And if you miss curfew, they shippin' you somewhere else. So it was like, I was just at my rope's end. And the things that he was sayin' to me, it sounded good."

And the potential pitfalls of the foster-care system:

"My mother died and I was placed in foster homes," said a girl who started hooking at age 15. "My foster father would touch me, and I ran away. I ended up coming to New York, and I was on the streets; nobody wanted to help me. And I ran into this girl, and she was like 38 when she passed away last year, but she taught me everything I know. She taught me how to do what I have to do — but not be stupid about it — to play it right and be smart."

Not to mention youth homeless shelters:

"I've been raped at Covenant House three times," one young man stated. "It was by guys in the men's ward." (The three other youths interviewed for the study who spoke specifically about the New York-based nonprofit, whose mission is to care for kids in crisis, made no mention of sexual assault; they described the shelter as a place where kids shared knowledge about how to sell sex and/or characterized it as a popular place for pimps looking to recruit.)

One recurring theme is economic desperation:

"The fact that people think that I'm doing it because I want to — I mean, I get replies all the time on email, and they tell me: 'You know, why don't you just get a job?'" reported a boy with three years' experience selling sex. "Well, no shit, Sherlock! Honestly! I don't know, I would like someone to be able to offer me something."

Law-enforcement personnel, the kids say, are not always helpful:

"One cop said, 'You're lucky I'm off duty, but you're gonna suck my dick or I'ma take you in,'" a transgender youth stated. "This has happened to me about eight times."

"Police raped me a couple a times in Queens," said a female who had worked as a prostitute for four years. "The last time that happened was a coupla months ago. But you don't tell anybody; you just deal wit' it."

Though many kids said they developed buddy-system strategies to stay safe and fed on the street, nearly all wanted a way out:

"I really wanna stop now, but I can't 'cause I have no source of income since I'm too young," said a girl who'd begun hooking at age 12. "So it's like that I have to do it, it's not like I wanna do it. As I say, I'm only 17, I got a 2-year-old daughter, so that means I got pregnant real young. Didn't have no type of Medicaid... Can't get a job, have no legal guardian, I don't have nobody to help me but [friends], so you know, we all in this together."

In late 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice called on the Center for Court Innovation and John Jay professor Ric Curtis to expand their research to other cities nationwide, backing the project with a $1.275 million federal grant. Now Curtis and Jennifer Bryan, the center's principal research associate, direct six research teams across the United States, employing the same in-the-trenches approach that worked in New York City: respondent-driven sampling, or RDS.

The method was developed in the '90s by sociologist Doug Heckathorn, now on the faculty at Cornell University, who was seeking a way to count hidden populations. It has since been used in 15 countries to put a number on a variety of subcultures, from drug addicts to jazz musicians. Curtis and his research assistant, Meredith Dank, were the first to use RDS to count child prostitutes.

For the John Jay study, Curtis and Dank screened kids for two criteria: age (18 and younger) and involvement in prostitution. All subjects who completed the study's full, confidential interview were paid $20. They were also given a stack of coded coupons to distribute to other potential subjects, and for each successful referral they were paid $10. And so on.

RDS relies on a snowball effect that ultimately extends through numerous social networks, broadening the reach of the study. "The benefit of this is that you're getting the hidden population: kids who don't necessarily show up for [social] services and who may or may not get arrested," Bryan says. "It's based on the 'six degrees of separation' theory."

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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

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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

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Terrence
Terrence

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Terrence

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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?

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.

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?

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.

 
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