Juvenile prostitution is a great problem and not many people are aware of it. In some cases juvenile prostitution start as a voluntary act but in other cases there are girls who are being kidnap just with the purpose of selling them for sex. Some of these children leave home to escape physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many end up on the streets. Without legitimate means of support and a safe place to stay, they are often victimized again through pornography, sexual exploitation, and drugs. Juvenile prostitution could be define as the time in which a teenage under the age of 18 engage in sexual activities in exchange of money, property, or for mainly other reason than satisfy one emotional or sexual needs. When we think of juvenile prostitution we usually think that these girls sell their self for pleasure or because they want to but, the reality is that this crime is increasing to a level that our teenagers are becoming like slaves.
Child prostitutes can be any age. The children are most often between 11 and 18 years of age but some may be as young as 18 months. These children usually come from broken homes and are lured by seemingly kind older men who promise them food and shelter. These men then become their pimps and exploit the children for their own financial gain. Child prostitutes are poorly paid if they are paid at all, kept in unsanitary conditions, denied healthcare, and are constantly watched and kept subservient. Child prostitutes are commonly threatened and abused both physically and psychologically. Pimps also use drugs as a tactic. The pimp will invite the child to a party and provide them with their first taste of drugs. The child then becomes hooked and will perform prostitution services in exchange for more of the drug.
Alternativly, the pimp may find a child who is already a drug user and promise to feed their fix in exchange for ‘work’. They have multiple sex partners on a daily basis and are bought and sold by exploiters. Many contract diseases such as tubercolosis( TB ) , hepatitis-b, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and human immunodeficiency virus ( HIV ) acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Children are often forced by social structures and individual agents into situations in which adults take advantage of their vulnerability and sexually exploit and abuse them. Structure and agency commonly combine to force a child into commercial sex: for example, the prostitution of a child frequently follows from prior sexual abuse, often in the child’s home. Child prostitution usually takes place in particular environments, such as brothels, bars and clubs, or homes, or particular streets and areas (usually in socially run down places).
According to one study, only about 10% of child prostitutes have a pimp and over 45% got into the business through friends. Sometimes it is not organized, but often it is, either on a small scale through individual pimps or on a larger scale through extensive criminal networks. They often are malnourished and practice poor hygiene, leaving them vulnerable to disease. These children rarely have the chance to experience the simple joys of being a Teenager learning to bond with friends, attending school and graduating from high school. They are robbed of their childhood and thrust into a life of turmoil and danger. It is found in this study that most trafficked children were children from families with difficult economic situations and had little opportunity for schooling or education.
It is very common that a majority of them quit schooling to work for their family’s survival. The child may face long-term physical health problems caused by sexual abuse. This may include internal injury and reproductive problems for females. If a child prostitute does get pregnant she is unlikely to carry to full term and the newborn is likely to have developmental setbacks and a high infant mortality rate. If the child does survive, the young mother is unlikely to be able to care for it properly and the child may fall victim to the same problems as the mother in what is termed the chain effect.
Child prostitutes are also known to face profound psychological damage. They feel as if they can trust no one and often feel worthless. Psychological trauma is a huge danger of child prostitution and can result in depression, anti-social behaviour, anxiety, dissociation, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Child prostitutes may enagage in self-mutilation and be prone to suicidal tendencies; many child prostitutes do not make it to adulthood.
Prostitution is the practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for money, property or services, mainly for reasons other than satisfying one’s own sexual or emotional needs. The term juvenile prostitution is used when prostitutes are minors, under 18 years old. Although the age of majority varies from one country to another, juvenile prostitution is considered illegal in Philippines, as elsewhere in the world. Coleman (1989) defines a prostitute as: a) an individual who repeatedly engages in sexual activity with others who would not otherwise stand in any special relationship; b) expects remuneration in the form of currency or the necessities of life in return for such activities. Prostitution inevitably involves two main groups: prostitututes, the majority of whom are womwn and their clients, who are almost exclusively men.
Often, a third type of protagonist is also involved: the pimp or procurer or any other person who profits from prostitution. In keeping with the general image, pimps can be unscrupulous individuals who profit from and live on the avails of prostitution of women they have seduced into becoming prostitutes. This type of procurer is called a coercive pimp. Pimp can also be drug dealers, the owner of dance bars or escort services or even the spouses of prostitutes. Since the individuals facilitate and even encourage prostitution, they are reffered to as support pimps. Each of them profit from the sexual activities of women in their own particular way. (Coleman, 1989; Caplan, 1984).
The social phenomenon of female juvenile prostitution is a serious problem that is difficult to understand and troublesome to acknowledge. The fact that young girls are finding their way into the complex system of prostitution is often met with disbelief. Many myths and stereotypes exist about prostitution. Without an understanding of these, one cannot fully appreciate the exploitation factors that exist for the juvenile. (Wang, 1984)
Myth 1: Prostitution is a natural expression of sexuality and necessity for in a dequate sexual relationships This view supports a sexual myth that men have uncontrollable sexual urges that must be fulfilled. Herein lies a justification for prostitution. The juvenile prostitute is dehumanized by the implication that prostitutes serve a useful purpose as an object for sexual gratification. The reality, as described by our sample of former juvenile prostitutes, is that juvenile prostitutes are often appalled at and damaged by the acts demanded of them. Their participation is often a threat to their physical well-being. The act of prostitution is structured by the desires and fantasies of the customer, which are incongruent with the desires and sensitivities expressed by the young women in this sample.
Myth 2: Prostitution is a victimless crime.
Prostitution creates a setting whereby crimes against men, women, and children become a commercial enterprise. When a customer uses a juvenile prostitute for his or her own sexual gratification, he or she is committing the crime of child sexual abuse. It is an assault when he or she forces a prostitute to engage in sadomasochistic sex scenes. When a pimp compels a prostitute to submit to sexual demands as a condition of employment, it is exploitation, sexual harassment, or rape acts that are based on the prostitute’s compliance rather than her consent. The fact that a pimp or customer gives money to a prostitute for submitting to these acts does not alter the fact that child sexual abuse, rape, and/or battery occurs; it merely redefines these crimes as prostitution.
Myth 3: Juveniles freely choose prostitution.
The following self-reported data on the impact of child exploitation shows that victims of violence can lose their sense of psychological and physical wellbeing. Case histories suggest that a number of juveniles engaged in prostitution grew up in abusive and/or neglectful homes. A fragile self-esteem and limited resources lead some young girls to believe that they had no other choice but to enter the world of prostitution.
Myth 4: Prostitution can be an exciting and glamorous life.
Cultural mythology about prostitution is built on misinformation and fantasies of sexuality that are promulgated through movies, television, videotapes, and printed material including pornography. These may entice naive young women into prostitution with false promises of glamour and riches. In reality juvenile prostitutes suffer pain, humiliation, and degradation at the hands of their pimps and customers. They are susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
Myth 5: The system of prostitution offers wealth to the participant. The economics of prostitution are complex. If a juvenile is controlled by a pimp or madam most, if not all, of his or her earnings are turned over to the pimp or madam. If working independently for a house of prostitution a large percentage of his or her earnings are turned back to the house. Their lives are strictly controlled, and their ability to set up independent funds is carefully guarded. Part of the strategy for cont rol ove r their activities is for pimps and madams to keep them economically dependent upon the system of prostitution itself. Any profit is often spent as rapidly as it is obtained, reinforcing the efforts that go into prostitution. A rapid turnover of “feel good or look good” money into immediately expendable, positively reinforcing products perpetuates the need for continued participation in prostitution.
The Role of Sexual Abuse
Prostitution is frequently alluded to as one of the possible long term effects of the sexual abuse of children (Bagley and King, 1990; Coleman, 1989; McMullen, 1987). While the statistical evidence is contradictory, the incidence of physical and sexual abuse is staggeringly high not only among American prostitutes. Li et al. (1990) review several authors who assert that prostitutes have more often experienced incest and forced intercourse than non-prostitutes. Such claims warrant a detailed investigation into the effects of sexual abuse on the child and its correlation with subsequent prostitution. Consensus on a global definition of sexual abuse remains illusive, but the trend is to regard it as inappropriate sexual involvement between a minor (under 18) and a sexually maturer person (at least 5 years older).
Such behaviour is intended to lead to sexual arousal and may range from fondling to intercourse. No single factor determines the psychological impact that sexual abuse has on the child. Rather, the intensity of the child’s traumatisation and the character of the psychological symptoms are influenced by several factors (Bagley and King, 1990; Dubowitz, Black, Harrington and Verschoore, 1993): • The child’s stage of socio-sexual development, temperament and understanding of the social sanctions against such behaviour.
Effects will thus depend on the meaning attached to it by the individual child. • The nature of the abusive acts. Penetration, for example, will be more harmful than fondling or mere exhibitionism. • The use of coercion and violence. Non-consensual abuse appears to have a particularly harmful impact on the victim. • The perpetrator’s relationship with child. Abuse by a trusted caretaker leads to more intense emotional conflict for the victim.
• The perpetrator’s proximity to the victim. Victims who cannot escape unwanted situations suffer more deleterious effects. • The absence of familial support. The severely dysfunctional family not only increases the child’s vulnerability to abuse, but causes excessive guilt through unsympathetic reactions and rejection of the victim. • Intrusive negative effects of unwanted abuse is indubitably amplified when the abuse is accompanied by poor nurturance (as is the case with many institutionalised abuse cases) and an unstable home life. Negative effects are also aggravated in cases of incest where the child has assumed an pseudoadult role within the family, since this effectively enmeshes the victim into the family system, prevents the development of normal peer relations and makes termination of the abuse so much more intricate. Children’s reactions to the abuse are diverse and idiosyncratic. Consequently, the evidence regarding the psychological effects of sexual abuse is contradictory.
There is little doubt, however, that such premature exposure to sex gives rise to precocious sexuality, arrested psycho-sexual development and a distorted perception of love and affection (Li et al., 1990). Diminished inhibition, disrespect for personal boundaries, inappropriate sexual behaviours and excessive masturbation are also noted (Bagley and King, 1990). Putman, Helmers and Trickett (1993) report increased levels of dissociation among abused and traumatised children, accompanied by heightened aggressive and self destructive behaviour. Short term effects of child sexual abuse include fear, anxiety, guilt, hostility and shame (Bagley and King, 1990; Herrmann, 1989). Negative coping mechanism such as passive submission, repression, identification with the aggressor or anger suppression appear to aggravate behavioural symptoms such as learnt helplessness, depression, sleep and somatic complaints, hyperactivity and sexual acting out. Long term effects include suicidal ideation, hysterical seizures, confused social relationships, increased violence, promiscuity, truancy and delinquency.
Adult survivors of sexual abuse report sexual dysfunction, phobias, neuroticism, anorexia and substance abuse (Bagley and King, 1990). Also reported are post traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as affect disorders and depersonalisation (Dubowitz et al., 1993). Li et al. (1990) point out that many sexually abused individuals do not present with such diffuse reactions and suggest that victims who do react negatively were inherently disturbed before the on set of the abuse. This implies that pathological reactions are correlationally and not causally connected to sexual abuse. It is, indeed, difficult to separate the noxious effects of the sexual abuse from those of the environment or family scenario. In effect, sexual abuse may simply provides a core around which all other harmful experiences may be organised.
Following this argument, it is inappropriate to single out sexual molestation as the root of subsequent deviations. Despite these objections, the many and varied psychological symptoms correlated to sexual abuse point to a strong link between such abuse and subsequent prostitution. Where unwanted sexual contact becomes a focus for the victim, it may lead to runaway behaviour, which is the mediating variable associated with prostitution (Caplan, 1984; Coleman, 1989; McMullen, 1987).
The disposition towards prostitution among sexually abused runaways is facilitated by their heightened awareness of sexuality and its usefulness as a means of meeting nonsexual needs. While there is a positive correlation between early sexual experiences and subsequent entry into a life of prostitution, this alone is obviously not sufficient. Other correlations need to be considered to assess their impact on the aetiology of prostitution among juveniles. One such factor which has emerged as a direct precipitating factor is that of running away.
A primary method of procuring a juvenile for prostitution is through the use of feigned friendship and love. Often the prospective pimp will identify and fulfill an unmet need of the target youth. A combination of seduction and intimidation appears to be the most common approach used by pimps to recruit young women into prostitution. In these situations pimps typically frequent areas where juveniles are apt to congregate such as shopping malls, videogame arcades, and bus stations. The initial phase of procurement is essentially an information-gathering mission in which he attempts to identify the youth’s vulnerabilities. The pimp can be friendly or flirtatious, depending on which approach gains the best response. During this initial conversation he encourages her to tell him information about herself that he will subsequently use to seduce her. Is she a runaway? Why?
Is she window shopping looking at clothing that she cannot afford? Is she a truant tired of the restrictions of school and her parent’s rules? Does she perceive herself as gawky, unattractive, unpopular? The pimp then uses the information that she naively provides him to tailor his recruitment strategy or “rap” to meet what he perceives her needs to be. If she is a runaway he will offer her food and shelter and vaguely hint at the possibility of a job. Are her parent s too strict ? He will commi serate with her, tell her she’s too smart, too mature, to have all of those restrictions. Is she lonely? Does she consider herself undesirable? Then he will fawn over her. Pimps then use a combination of flattery and charm, the promise of money, protection, companionship, and intimacy to “con” a young woman into prostitution. This chapter includes excerpts from four interviews with women who became prostitutes as teenagers and six interviews with men who became pimps.
A study of 200 street prostitutes documented a high prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse in their family of origin, during the drift into prostitution and as part of prostitution. Additionally, the study documented a high prevalence of substance abuse among the child molesters and rapists of the subjects. The existence of a relationship between substance abuse and prostitution in and of itself does not imply causality. It is not clear whether substance abuse is one of the factors that pushed these women into prostitution (as noted earlier, 55% of the subjects reported being addicted prior to their prostitution involvement) or whether it was prostitution that caused their drug involvement (30% became addicted following and 15% concurrently with their prostitution involvement). Most likely, both prostitution and substance abuse are the behavioral translations of these women’s endless cycles of victimization and severely disturbed backgrounds, as well as an expression of the self-destructive pull, the sense of hopelessness, helplessness, negative self-concept and psychological paralysis reported by almost every subject in the study. (J Psychoactive Drugs. 1982).
A strong correlation between some form of substance abuse and prostitution is observed on the streets in different countries. It has not yet been determined whether the onset of substance abuse precedes prostitution or follows soon after: it can be proposed that the development of drug addiction would undoubtedly create the need for a convenient means, such as prostitution, to pay for the habit; equally true is the premise that drug euphoria is needed by the prostitute to alleviate the degradation and humiliation felt in the act of prostitution. Without a firm knowledge of the chronological sequence, it is not possible to ascertain whether the substance abuse is a cause or an effect of prostitution. Ben-Arie (1985) defines drug abuse as “the consumption, without medical supervision, of medically useful drugs which alter mood and behaviour … for a purpose other than that for which it is prescribed” or “the consumption of any mind changing substances which have no legitimate medical or socially acceptable use”.
Street prostitutes ostensibly become involved only in those drugs that are freely available on the streets such as dagga (marijuana; tetro-hydrocannabanol), Methaqualone (mandrax imitations or “buttons”), Welconal (Dipipanone Hydrochloride) and Cocaine, although other substances such as LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), cough mixture and barbiturates are also abused. Understanding the processes behind the initiation and continuation of drug abuse among children and adolescents is no simple task. Psychological factors contributing to drug dependence include the presence of psychiatric illnesses, retarded emotional development, repressed anger and inability to deal with stress. Further social factors such as negative peer pressure, inconsistent familial relations and social alienation may add to the youth’s disposition towards drug abuse (Coombs and Coombs, 1988; Davies an Coggans, 1991).
Glynn and Haenlein (1988) highlight that the development of substance abuse in youths often indicates the presence of poor intra-familial relations, delinquency and delayed emotional development. The majority of dependants initiated usage as an emotionally unstable child who found the euphoria psychologically attractive, and continued the dependency as a means of escape from the unfavourable emotions linked to reality (Du Plessis, unpublished). While typical abuse situations such as sexual molestation, neglect, physical abuse, foster placements or delinquent absconding may lead to substance abuse, more incipient forms of abuse have a similar effect.
High socio economic families in which parents do not take responsibility for their child, where there is a lack of communication, poor discipline and temporal values may increase the child’s 10 receptiveness to drug addiction. Substance abuse is, therefore, a further symptom, along with other behavioural deficits such as delinquency or truancy, of the problems which have disturbed the child’s normal social development from an early age (Sneider, 1986). It is from the combined impact of the child’s negative experiences from which prostitution and substance abuse evolves (Coombs and Coombs, 1988).
Social Support Systems
In the discussion so far, the impact of child abuse (particularly sexual molestation), running away and substance abuse have been considered. In each, the importance of the chaotic family environment has been highlighted as important in the aetiology of the deviant behaviour among youth. Children do not become involved in sexual compromise unless under extreme duress or dire physical need. Li et al. (1990) argue that only those children who have been subject to multiple forms of abuse and severely dysfunctional familial structures are more prone to prostitution. McMullen (1987) states that “of one thing we can be certain – a child who is loved and cared for will have a good self image and is unlikely to enter into a life of prostitution” (p 39). The importance of the family life on the child’s development highlights the intervention of welfare systems as a possible indicator of individuals at higher risk for juvenile prostitution activities.
Where the family unit has become irreparably dysfunctional, or stressors on the child have become unbearable, welfare and care organisations are in place to offer assistance and support. Despite this, there are those who do not adequately benefit from the resources available. Admission into care organizations is disruptive on school, friends and family, is stigmatizing and does not always protect the child from further abuse.
Corrective action against family instability and sexual abuse, particularly when only partial or not sufficiently followed through, appears to increase the chances of revictimisation (Bagley and King, 1990). The removed child is placed in care where she may again be abused, abscond and then become involved in the network of drugs and prostitution. In fact the experiences gained in these institutions may be invaluable to the youth in equipping her with the specific skills to survive on the street.
The possible link between the failure of welfare agencies and subsequent involvement in teenage prostitution may important in ascertaining which factors lead to the development of such activities and helping to determine which children are at particular risk.
In the consideration of the factors precipitating juvenile prostitution, it is important to consider the impact of the individual’s personal life history, relationship with parents and involvement in welfare institutions. From this it may be possible to establish which factors lead to absconding, drug addiction and ultimately prostitution. Child prostitution is a unique form of child abuse that is often hidden from the public eye. It is not just limited to developing countries, child prostitution it is a global issue. These children rarely choose to engage in prostitution services but instead are tricked or lured into the business. Once in the business, the children face traumatic psychological and physical abuse that no person, much less a child, should ever experience. Those children that are lucky enough to escape remain traumatized for the rest of their lives. However, not all child prostitutes are able to escape the business. Many do not survive to adulthood or remain sex workers forever.
This study aims to identify those factors that precipitate child prostitution through an assessment of the demographic and psychographic nature of the juvenile prostitutes.
A non-experimental, or ex post facto, research design will be used to assess the variables leading to juvenile prostitution. Ex post facto designs are used when “it is not possible to manipulate variables or to assign subjects or conditions at random” (Kerlinger, 1979). The primary characteristic of non-experimental research is that the independent variables come to the researcher after their effects have been exercised, giving no opportunity for manipulation. Control of extraneous variables is limited. The conclusions are not empirically as strong as with experimental designs since control of variables is limited. For this reason as many variables as possible should be explored so as to limit the number of extraneous variables that may be effecting the dependant variable.
Using the ex post facto method, the independent variables will be investigated in youth that are involved in prostitution so as to assess the effects of these in the development of prostitution activities. The research design is open to objection on the grounds that retrospective recollections are subject to distortion, suppression and faulty attributions of cause and effect. In addition, it is questionable whether one can trust the historical accounts of social deviants such as drug addicts and prostitutes. While this may be so, this appears to be a relatively effective means of ascertaining the possible reasons why the youth became exposed and involved in sexual exploitation on the streets.
Prostitution, sexual exploitation and sex slavery of children and adolescents is an increasing social problem in some developing countries. Child prostitution is linked to poverty, economic development and may be escalated by international tourism. Child prostitution is destructive to life and an affront to human dignity. Professional Psychologists are encouraged to direst their expertise into tackling these issues at the levels of prevention as well as cure, as it appears that child prostitution will continue to increase throughout the Asian Region hand to hand with increased tourism and economic development.
Action research needs to lead to social change, the change of attitudes toward women and female children and increased education of family values and the value and dignity of life. Community awareness and viable alternatives for employment must also be considered. Psychologists also need to look at the psychology of the paedophile, the abuser and the exploiter, also the family members who are willing to sell their children to provide a better house, a TV or other material goods. It is hoped that in the process of development in other Third World and Asian nations that this gross violation of the dignity of the rights of Children can be avoided.
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• Putman, F.W., Helmers, K., & Trickett, P.K. (1993). Development, Reliability and Validity of a Child Dissociation Scale. Child Abuse and Neglect, Vol 17 (6).