I just finished watching the documentary 'Very Young Girls.' It's a documentary on prostitution, and the exploitation of young girls.
Now, I actually support the legalization of sex work. I think that if adult women make a choice to provide sexual services in exchange for money, that's their business and there is simply nothing wrong with it. Sex work in and of itself is not exploitative. If a woman chooses to be a sex work provider, chooses the days and times that she will work, which clients she will see, what sex acts she is willing to perform...that's not exploitation. It's freedom.
However, most women who have the power to make those kinds of decisions choose not to enter sex work because of the legal implications. Furthermore, criminalization of sex work makes it dangerous. Clients are aware that sex workers are outside the law and that status means they aren't as likely to call law enforcement for protection. And because all sex work is illegal, girls and women who are forced into sex work by predatory pimps, poverty or drug addiction have little recourse for reaching out to get help. Girls who are being held against their will by vicious pimps are arrested and prosecuted, not rescued and helped.
'Very Young Girls' provides insight into the nightmare that these children live daily. In this country, a 13 year old girl cannot legally consent to sex, but she can be prosecuted for receiving money for sex. It simply makes no sense. It's like saying you can rape a woman and then if you give her money, she is somehow not a victim. These girls are not choosing to have sex for money. They are being forced to have sex with men to make money for other men. And these pimps know their stuff. They know how to target girls from hellish homes, girls who are looking for someone to give them acceptance and love. And they know how to draw them in, make them feel loved for the first time in their lives, and then use the love girls are dying to give to them to turn them out on the streets. And rather than rescue these girls and help them, our laws put them in jail cells and then right back out onto the street into the clutches of their abusers.
The documentary delves into the work of GEMS (Girls Education and Mentoring Services), an organization run by a former victim of sexual exploitation. The organization works with the girls to attempt to rehabilitate them, get them off the streets, off the drugs and out of the hands of their pimps. They give girls the chance to get an education and a job and a life. The work that goes into helping these girls is mind boggling. And a lot of the girls go back to their pimps, because the pimps are masters of manipulation. It is the sort of organization that is actually doing the work that our elected officials are supposed to be doing, but aren't.
If you're looking for a cause to champion or have money that you can donate, or just want to learn about the amazing work these people are doing check out their website. You can find the documentary on Netflix, it's available for streaming online. I highly recommend it.