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Somebody's Daughter: The Hidden Story of America's Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them Paperback – April 1, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
"The sex trade is the new drug trade," writes Sher (Caught in the Web), who draws attention to the 300,000 American minors trafficked and prostituted each year in his thorough, deeply affecting study. Scaffolding his arguments on the narratives of two such children--Maria, a former prostitute "turned out" at the age of 13, and Felicia, who became involved with her pimp at 14--Sher follows how young people, frequently runaways, find themselves in the clutches of predatory adults. He introduces the reader to the networks of rescue organizations that offer succor and the law enforcement agencies that too frequently victimize the children further, prosecuting prostitutes rather than their pimps or johns. He also studies how representations of pimping in pop culture (from Grand Theft Auto IV to rapper Ice-T's film Pimpin') normalize--even glamorize--exploitation. While the horror stories of the young girls "in the life" are vividly recounted, the author depicts them with sensitivity and respect; and his book strikes a rare balance between revealing trauma and hope, and between the stories of abused children and their advocates. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Sher takes on the story of teen prostitution in the U.S. by primarily focusing on three cities, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Dallas. His interview subjects include a small group of teens who explain how they came to prostitution and how they broke out of it. He also talks to police officers investigating vice crimes as well as lawyers, judges, and survivors of the sex trade now working to rescue other victims. Interspersed with these personal stories are discussions of statistics regarding gender, age, and recidivism. The situations are alternately sad or graphically violent, but always tragic. Sher clearly has a great deal of empathy for his interview subjects, and is at his most gripping when writing about their decisions to stand up against former pimps. He also writes in detail about the glamorized pimp image and how it has flooded pop culture (Ice T’s career is particularly ironic). --Colleen Mondor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Sher provides a down to earth, engrossing account of children forced into prostitution, showing us that for these kids, succumbing to the "protection" of a pimp looks like, and may in fact be, their best available option. He highlights a combination of factors that contribute to the perpetuation of the prostitution of children: societal condemnation, glorification of pimp culture, non-existent / inadequate social services, and the failure of the criminal justice system to recognize and treat "prostituted children" as victims (often 12 - 16 year-old runaways fleeing abusive families) rather than as criminals. To the extent these girls (and women) collude in their own mistreatment, the author does an excellent job of conveying the reason one would remain in a brutalizing, degrading environment: they've got no better place to go. Criminal records and lack of skills make it difficult to climb out of "the life." He also raises the question: Why, if these kids aren't old enough to legally have consensual sex, are they regarded as criminals when they are forced by a criminal to sell sex to a pedophile?
It is not a great stretch to imagine that when a kid desperate for love and belonging finds a powerful guardian, even if that guardian is violent and evil, beats her, rapes her, and threatens to kill her - that can still feel like love to someone who hasn't had the benefit of a healthy early attachment to a nurturing adult. The dynamic is likely similar to that of battered wife syndrome. Pimps know how to isolate, manipulate, and control the women who work for them, and the women become loyal to the point of helping and defending these scumbags. They need better options.
Sadly, nothing in these powerful and moving stories surprises me. I'm not surprised that there are sick people who exploit the vulnerability of children (or young adults who grew up on the street) for their own financial gain. I'm not surprised kids in this situation face further abuse in an often inept and indifferent legal system, or hostility in ignorant, moralistic "normal" communities. When families fail, where is the social safety net?
What did surprise me is to learn that law enforcement professionals have begun to understand the circumstances that drive these kids onto the streets. Some police departments, prosecutors, and judges want to make a difference, and have tried to pioneer a different approach. While change has been slow to come, gradually awareness is increasing. The final third of the book talks about a few programs, mostly launched by former prostitutes, and there is an appendix with resources - though limited in their capacity, at least they exist.
Somebody's Daughter is a good tool for raising awareness.
I felt that this book helped me to face my own bias and misinformed beliefs, that mirror the majority of Americans. I feel enlightened and this made me think, where is the outrage?!? I am so glad I stumbled on this book. I hope to contribute in some way to ending prostituted children in America. I gladly give this book 5 stars.