In How Much Money Do Prostitutes Make Part II, I wrote about one 12 year old whom a client of ours found prostituting out on Wilkens Avenue. My point was that since the majority of prostituting women seem to begin at that age, it's unreasonable to imagine that they're able to hold out for the kind of money that they "should" be able to get. Even if she's on Wilkens Avenue, a 12 year old having sex with a middle aged man is just a rape victim. How well would you expect a child rape victim to negotiate with her rapist? How well can she do it six year later, after she's been degraded thousands of times and she's strung out on drugs in order to endure it? The free market analysis, in other words, is more than a bit flawed.
After I read jg's comment to Part II last night, I realized that a lot of people might be curious about what happened to that particular little girl, so here is what I know. The client, Linda, who was out prostituting with her own adult daughters, was appalled to find a child on the street openly doing the same thing. Linda confronted her, didn't know what to answer to the inevitable "Well, what are you doing here yourself?" reply, but refused to leave her side. Linda and the little girl spent most of the day together, with Linda warning her away from an unmarked police car, giving her bus money, taking her home, listening with grief stricken empathy to the child's story, feeding her with bag lunches she got from YANA, and telling her, over and over again, that there was such a place as YANA where people cared about a girl like her.
The little girl stoutly maintained that she wouldn't trust a place like YANA, and she wouldn't go to a place like that either. Then she went back home with Linda still at her side. They both met the mother on the street, and the girl told her mom that she hadn't made any money. The mother responded by hitting her in the face. The 12 year old asked for Linda's cell phone and then, to Linda's astonishment, called the police. Linda was frightened, but she didn't leave. The police showed up to find a pair of middle aged addicts screaming at each other and a little girl who identified herself as a prostitute. First thing they did (good old Southwest Baltimore!) was slap handcuffs on the child.
Then they called back the mother who was rapidly sidling away. She ignored them at first, but was persuaded to return when they shouted out a threat to shoot her. Linda, meanwhile, was vigorously explaining that it was the mother who should be locked up, but probably mom herself was much more helpful in that regard. She came back shouting profanities and threats at her daughter. The girl was released from her handcuffs, and she raised her shirt, showing the officers the marks on her belly and back from being whipped for not bringing home enough money. The mother was cuffed and taken away. The daughter was taken away as well, but the police committed a final amazing act on that remarkable day. They took the time to explain to the still-argumentative and grieving old prostitute that she didn't need to worry anymore. The little girl wasn't being arrested. She was being taken to social services where she would be protected, where she would never have to see her mother again.
One year of being prostituted, beaten, and betrayed by her own family balanced against one day of being listened to and cared about by a stranger. It was enough. The girl decided she deserved something better out of life, and she had spirit enough to go get it.
One day transformations are rare, but transformations over time are pretty much the norm. Given enough listening and support, women do decide that they can do better, and they do start to take that difficult journey away from not just one year, but 20 or 30 years of savage abuse. The story of prostituted women is the story of resilience.