Book Excerpts highlight a piece of writing that has provoked further thought for our team. In this blog Kate, our executive assistant, reflects on the book Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd.
Children are vulnerable just by virtue of being children…. Pimps understand child psychology and adolescent development well enough to know the dynamics at play and can skillfully manipulate most children, regardless of socioeconomic background, prior abuse, or parenting, into a situation where they can be forced or coerced into being sold for sex.
Yet it may take longer to manipulate the well-adjusted fourteen-year-old, and in the process she’ll be missed pretty quickly by her parents, who’ll notify the police, who may put out an Amber Alert…. But if you shift some of the variables in the case—make the child a child of color, a runaway, a child in the foster care system, a child no one’s really going to miss, a child so starved of attention and affection that anything you provide will be welcomed, a child who’ll be seen as a willing participant in [his]her own exploitation—the story changes dramatically. There’s no Amber Alert, no manhunt, no breaking news story, no Nancy Grace coverage, no police investigation, no prosecution. It’s just another “teen prostitute”….
— Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd
When people ask me where Love146 works, countless individuals are surprised—often skeptical—to hear that we care for survivors of trafficking in Connecticut. More often than not, I catch myself defending why we work in Connecticut at all. “Don’t you remember the Dennis Paris and Brian Forbes cases? They occurred around East Hartford, my hometown. And, no, it’s not a big city. Trafficking can occur anywhere, yes, even the suburbs.”
Looking at how people react to hearing about child victims of exploitation in the United States, it seems that we as a society have lost sight of a child’s inexhaustible needs, which range from the physical realm of shelter, food, and clothes to the structural realm of safe neighborhoods and effective school systems, and to the intricate emotional realm of consistent, unconditional love that brings a child comfort, structure, and hope. We forget that, just as Rachel Lloyd said, “children are inherently vulnerable,” and instead we question what they were doing hanging out with that older man who showed them attention in the first place, or why they thought running away was a better option than having a roof over their head.
When we blame the victim, exploited teens are no longer considered to be “inherently vulnerable children,” but fully mature, self-sufficient people who should have known better, done something differently, or walked away from their boyfriend/pimp. Victim blaming is particularly prevalent in trafficking situations where kidnapping or physical restraint is not present, and pimps know that they need not physically restrain a child in order to manipulate or exploit their circumstances and needs for their personal and economic gain—hence the skeptical glances and reactions I receive when I mention that Love146 has a Survivor Care program in Connecticut.
I’m not a parent or guardian, but I am an aunt, and I get to spend a lot of time with my niece and nephew. Snow days are filled with Frozen references, holidays are spent sneaking them another handful of M&Ms, and babysitting is consumed with sparking their creativity and imagination while I am their patient when we play “Doctor” for two whole hours. They are children who need constant guidance and attention, structure and balance, and love. They, like all other children, are inherently vulnerable—even here in Connecticut.
Children should not be considered responsible for their own exploitation. They have a name, a face, and a voice, and their stories shouldn’t be ignored or discredited. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Check out our Books and Films page to find more recommendations from us.