"Many girls are forced to go to middle school playgrounds and recruit other young girls," Assistant District Attorney Lauren Hersh told the paper. Hersh, who runs a sex-trafficking unit for the DA's office, also hosts workshops that teach educators how to pick up on trafficking warning signs. So far, Hersh's unit has had 32 traffickers indicted.
Helping victims instead of prosecuting them has contributed to the unit's success.
Hersh’s unit represents a change in law-enforcement attitude toward underage prostitution. Instead of busting girls, they are finding out if they were coerced and charging the pimps.
“I’m sure, I’m positive, that 20 years from now, or even five years from now, we will approach this situation in a much different way,” Hersh said.
“I hope that people will walk down the street, and when they see a 12-year-old in heels that are this high and two black eyes, that they won’t call the police and say, Oh, there’s a nuisance on the street.’ ”
Hopefully, more sex-trafficking programs will target pimps instead of the girls coerced into sex slavery. The Department of Justice estimates that as many as 300,000 children within the United States are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation each year.
[via the Daily News]