Saturday, May 28, 2011

My Life My Choice & Research

I was fortunate enough have had the chance to listen to Lisa Goldblatt Grace and Audrey Porter talk about their Boston nonprofit aimed at preventing commercial sexual exploitation, My Life My Choice (MLMC), at an event earlier this week. My Life My Choice “provides a unique continuum of prevention, victim identification, and intervention services. MLMC offers provider training, prevention groups, case coordination, and survivor mentoring to victims of exploitation.” Starting in 2002, MLMC has provided assistance to over 700 girls and 2000 service providers. The story of the birth of MLMC was told, along with survivor’s, Audrey Porters, story and work. It was truly incredible to hear about the work these two women are doing, as well as the work of MLMC.
I would like to share some of the information from handouts that were given out at the event. The first is a story from a survivor who is now a mentor at MLMC.

“Can you imagine a 14- year old made up with make-up and heels, walking up and down the street looking for her next way to survive? A car pulls up; inside is a 45 year old man wanting to have sex with her. She gets in and that night she is raped, beaten, and robbed of all the money she has made that night. Do you think she stopped? NO, she cleans herself up and waits for her next trick to come.

This was me and that is what our children are going through every day. Our children shouldn’t have to go through what I have gone through. My life has been a whirlwind of pain and abuse from my family, who never loved me, to multiple fosters homes. The feelings of loneliness and abandonment they caused made me so vulnerable. It hurts to go foster home to foster home hoping a family will love you enough to call you their own and then you are sent away to another. I always felt unwanted. So when the first pimp approached me, through all the words he said all I ever heard was “I’ll be there for you”. He came up to me with this confidence I had never seen before; every girl wanted him, but he wanted me. We dated as boyfriend and girlfriend for a while, but not long before he started to treat me worse than my family ever did. The first night I went on the track, he punched me so hard, that I couldn’t breathe and he told me I was going to make his money. And he put me on the corner and I turned my first trick. I was stuck, and he was not letting me go. I stayed in prostitution for 4 years. Through all the rapes, beatings, guns put to my head, crooked cops, and face to face with death, I never left. I was addicted to one thing that DCF couldn’t provide: “LOVE”. I needed it and I couldn’t stop. It took me a long time before I got out. I was gang raped in 2007 and it took this for me to see I needed to get out. If it wasn’t for the support that I later got from service providers who stepped up, I might still be out there. They showed me there is life after this pain, and that there are actual people who believe and care about me.”

The next handout was from The Link: Connecting Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare. Below are bullet points taken from the article Understanding the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children by Lisa Goldbatt Grace.

•Findings from a study of 106 prostitution-related offenses, 68% reported having been sexual abused before the age or 10 and almost half reported being raped before the age of 10 (Norton- Hawk 2002).
o“Incest is a boot camp [for prostitution]. Incest is where you send a girl to learn how to do it…. And the training is specific and it is important; not to have any real boundaries to her own body; to know that she’s valued only for sex; to learn about men.” (Dworkin, 1997).
oThe younger a girl is when she first becomes exploited prostitution, the greater the likelihood that she has a history of child sexual abuse and the greater the extent of the abuse. (Council for Prostitution Alternatives 1991).

•A study of 222 prostituted women in Chicago found 83% had grown up in a home where one or both parents were involved in substance abuse. (Center for Impact Research 2001).

o62% of the respondents had viewed domestic violence in their childhood home; and 40% reported that these violent incidents were “serious” involving beating, rapes, and threats with a weapon. (Raphael, 2004).

•In two separate studies of adolescent girls exploited through prostitution, a third of the sample had a deceased mother. (Raphael & Shapiro 2002; Norton- Hawk 2002).

•“They [ the women and girls] described their isolation, lack of connectedness, and feelings of separation as the single most important factor in making them vulnerable to prostitution to begin with”. (Rabinovitch, 2003).

•Researchers have found that the majority of prostituted women have been runaways: 96% in San Francisco (Silbert & Pines 1982), 72% in Boston (Norton- Hawk 2002) and 56% in Chicago (Raphael & Shapiro 2002).

•90% of prostituted women interviewed by Women Hurt In Systems of Prostitution Engaged in Revolt (WHISPER) had pimps while in prostitution (Giobbe 1993).

•As of mid- year 2008, there were approximately 90 pimps in the Boston area that had been identified by the Boston Police (K. O’Connell, personal communication 2008)

•The most common tactic that pimps use is seduction. (Flowers, 2001; Spangenberg, 2001; NCMEC 2002, Raphael 2004; Llyod 2005).

•One study of 800 [prostituted] women found that 85% had experienced rapes, 95% assulats, and 77% kidnapping by pimps. (Council for Prostitution Alternatives 1991).
o“{Prostituted Women] are the most raped class of women in the history of our planet” (Hunter & Reed, 1990).

•One large study of homeless youth exploited through prostitution found that more than 75% of these youth abuse alcohol or drugs, while virtually all admit to some level of use… It is important to note that a significant percentage of girls enter prostitution with no drug of alcohol abuse history. (Farley & Kelly 2000).

•Survivors of commercial sexual exploitation demonstrate a high rate of dissociative disorders, self- destructive behaviors (including cutting), suicide attempts, and clinical depression (Biobbe 1993; Farley and Kelly 2000, Nixon at al., 2002; Llyod 2005).

•50% of women in the sample had attempted suicide and approximately 20% participated in self- mutilation (i.e. cutting). (Parriott, 1994).

•“As a result of the chronic trauma, prostituted girls often develop symptoms congruent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One international study of prostituted people in five countries found that almost 75% met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD” (Farley, Baral, Kiremire & Sezgin, 1998).

•Some adolescent girls may display the symptoms of the Stockholm Syndrome, otherwise most frequently seen among prisoners of war (Graham & Wish, 1994). Here as a means of emotional and physical survival, the captive (the girl) identifies with her captor (the pimp). She expresses extreme gratefulness over the smallest acts of kindness or mercy (i.e., he does not beat her today), denial over extent of violence and injury, rooting for her pimp, hypervigilence regarding his needs, and the perception that anyone trying to persecute him or help her escape is the enemy.

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