When I was twelve I was in the sixth grade. Elementary school was very good to me. I had wonderful teachers who let me read constantly and it was still socially acceptable to have dirt smeared somewhere on your person at all times. I just barely survived the right of passage know as Youth Boosters Soccer. Thank goodness, I eventually realized I was not going to be a soccer star and I cut my losses. I had a pet rat, Freckles, who was in all seriousness my best friend. I taught her to come when called and we would frequently stroll the sidewalks of my safe suburban neighborhood. (Yes, they make leashes for rats.) I was the founder and president of The Rat Club at my school where we would care for the baby rats the principal was raising to feed his pet snake. I didn't realize at the time just how morbid this is. Overalls were a staple of my wardrobe and my hair was nearly always in a fuzzy pony tail.
Here's 12-year-old me and Freckles. She is wearing a sweater I made for her out of a sock..
There's nothing particularly unique about my childhood (okay, the rats are a little odd). In general, I was just a typical 12-year-old kid in sneakers. I was utterly dependent on my parents and teachers for guidance and protection. I was naive and innocent—as all 12-years-olds should be.
The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12-14.
They are just children.
The media shows us images of prostitutes who are adult women who have chosen a certain "lifestyle" because that's the only way they can make money or because they are morally corrupt. As long as that is the association the word prostitute brings to mind, it is very easy to write them off saying: It's their choice or they are just bad people. When you see an image of someone soliciting them self on the street corner, is your immediate reaction disgust? Do you assume they are just trying to make a buck?
In all likelihood—they are children, or they were when they were first forced into the business.
As I think about the covert nature of this prevalent darkness, I have concluded that misconceptions play a huge role. Nothing in our culture makes child prostitution okay. It is just wrong. Yet it happens everywhere. The girls who are being raped by countless men—are girls. Not women. They don't even have the capacity to consent. They're not volunteers by any stretch of the imagination. They should be in loving homes, learning, playing, and freely experiencing life.
We can no longer associate the word 'prostitution' with a shady profession. I propose a new definition.
Pros.ti.tu.tion [pros-ti-too-shuhn, -tyoo-] (n.)
They are just children.