StolenYouth champions the cause of the most victimized and vulnerable segment of our society – prostituted youth. Many of these children enter prostitution at an average age of 13. And although commercial sexual abuse of a minor is a felony, they are often treated like criminals. Most of these children were sexually abused at an early age, making them vulnerable to prostitution and coercion by pimps.
Pimps are sophisticated and effective predators. They manipulate children’s history of abuse, neglect or sexual trauma. They are part of larger organizations, generating millions of dollars in revenue for themselves, criminal cartels or gangs.
This is the human rights issue of our time and affects every state in America with at least 100,000 to as many as 300,000 children being commercially sexually exploited across the nation. By starting here in Seattle, StolenYouth is creating a successful working model that can be used to effectively address this growing problem in any city across the country.
Prostituted youth require safety, housing, and intensive specialized services to start the healing process and to have the opportunity to start a new life. This includes education, employment training, psychological counseling, medical care, and protection. Without intervention 77% of prostituted girls go on to participate in adult prostitution. The death rate of these adult prostitutes is 40 times that of the national average of adult women.
As an initial step, these children need a safe environment to start their recovery. In the entire United States there are only 120 beds serving prostituted youth, 8 of which are in Seattle. Seattle’s beds are at The Bridge – the one program in our community that supports and provides continuous care, education, housing, outreach and vocational training to prostituted young girls.
YouthCare’s Bridge Program is a three-year pilot program that was launched in 2010 with the generosity of private funders, the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Juvenile Court, the United Way, Harborview, and the Gates Foundation. These wonderful organizations have other urgent priorities and government support is shaky and only a partial foundation. Supporting The Bridge is the first step in StolenYouth’s journey to ensure long-lasting stability for these victimized girls in Seattle. We will be here to support them for the long haul.
Although Washington has one of the first statewide protocols that allows for a coordinated community response to identify, engage and better serve commercially sexually exploited children, there is real risk that services will be lost as budget cuts take hold.
The state has passed 12 new laws to support the prosecution of pimps and johns. Local FBI and police are well trained and experienced in conducting effective stings that catch pimps and lead them to prostituted youth. But that is not nearly enough. We have to provide a safe place for these kids to go, and the services they so desperately need to heal and recover.
Now all we need is your support in the fight to support these commercially sexually exploited children.