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A Guide for Mothers, Grandmothers, and Others
for Helping a Girl Caught in Prostitution
or Sex Trafficking

Part 2 ~ Starting Tips

The following tips are not necessarily given in the order of importance, and you may very well want to proceed in a different order than what follows here. For example, it may be that the first thing you will want to do is go to the police. But we've left that discussion for another section so as to give it more detail.

Try to find out all you can about what's happening with your daughter. The more specific information you can develop on your own, the better response you'll be able to get from authorities. The main questions you want to answer are, what is she doing, who is she doing it with, where is she at, who has what information, and what other evidence is there. Ask teachers, friends, neighbors, store owners, young people, and more. You may want to tell some people directly that you think the girl may be being prostituted. Other people you may want to question more indirectly. Also, there are some people who can be better approached by someone other than yourself. For example, you may want to have other parents talk to their own children to find out what they know. Or if you've gone to police, it's often best to leave the interview of other children to the police.

Give your phone number to any one you feel comfortable having it. It's also a good idea to give people the phone number of the investigating officer on your daughter's case if you have filed a report. Some people may feel more comfortable talking directly to police. Also, give people the number to one of the national hotlines we've listed a little lower down since some people may want to get more information for themselves before saying anything about what they know. One way to do this is to make up cards with the relevant phone numbers that you can hand to people. Or, if it seems more appropriate, make up a flyer with your child's picture, relevant information, and phone numbers where people can contact you and/or the authorities.

Don't be shy about going back to talk with people again and again. Your first conversation may get people thinking and talking with others. You never know when they may have new information filtering in.

  • In addition to asking questions about the individual girl, try also to find out if there are other girls in the area who have been recruited, if there are known pimps operating in the area, or local hotels that cater to prostitution. If there are pimps operating in the area, it's almost certain other girls, and possibly boys, have experienced recruiting attempts. And you can be certain that other parents will be as upset as you are to find out about it, making it possible for you all to work together to get the pimp and others arrested.

  • If you've always been careful not to invade your daughter's privacy, this may be an occasion where her safety is more important. Consider going through her phone records, her computer, her clothes, and her room for clues as to where your daughter is and what she's doing.

Right Away, Start and Keep a Notebook. One of the things that will be most helpful to you is to keep all your information in one notebook; the names and phone numbers of people you've talked to, the information they give you, the dates you make reports, the names of officials and social workers, and notes on conversations. Make an ongoing list of evidence. On top of the complex tasks of getting a youngster out of prostitution, the emotional turmoil of worrying about your child makes it difficult to remember even the most important details. So right away, start a notebook. Keep it with you, and write things down as soon as you can. Your notebook will give back to you again and again. And if you take out a notebook and take notes while you're talking to officials, that in itself will usually get these officials to treat you and your daughter's case much more seriously.

In addition, make sure you always have a notebook and pen by the phone.

Call One or More of the 24/7, Toll Free, Confidential Help Lines for Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

Call one of these confidential help lines as soon as you suspect your child may be being prostituted. And don't hesitate to call again and again as you have more questions. These hotlines are there to help you! (Child prostitution and sex trafficking are basically the same thing, so don't hesitate to call any of these numbers.)

  1. Children of the Night, Toll Free, Confidential, National Hotline, Child Prostitution
    1-800-551-1300 (se habla español)

  2. Polaris Toll Free, Confidential, National Hotline, Sex Trafficking:
    (Multilingual) 1-888-3737-888
    Korean Hotline 1-888-976-5274
    Spanish Hotline 1-888-80-AYUDA (1-888-80-29832)
    If you feel more comfortable writing an email, write Report@PolarisProject.org

  3. Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (not toll free)
    (U.S., Mexican Border)
    24-hr Trafficking Emergency Hotline - Bilingual (Spanish/English)
    In the U.S. call: (619) 666-2757
    In Mexico call: (664) 686-1717

Give one (or all) of these numbers to your daughter! If you're still in contact with your daughter, make sure she has this number, and that she knows that it's toll free and confidential. Try to get your daughter to memorize at least one of these phone numbers because pimps often confiscate a girl's cell phone. Give these numbers to others who may be in touch with your daughter.

There are many things these hotlines can do for you and your daughter:

  • They will treat you with respect!
  • They know a lot about prostitution and sex trafficking.
  • They can give you information and help you sort through your questions and fears.
  • If your daughter calls these hotlines, they will help her in many ways, including arranging to get her to a safe place.
  • They can tell you about the resources in your area.
  • They can help guide you through to the next step.
  • They understand!

It's also a good idea to give this number to the people you're talking to about your daughter's situation. Tell them the number is confidential. You never know when someone has information but may want to get more information for themselves before they forward to you or to authorities.

Pick a photo of your daughter and make multiple copies. Or, Make a Flyer. Showing people photos of your child not only helps jog their memories, it also motivates them to want to help. So make lots and lots of copies. Put your phone number on the back of each one. Don't ever give away the original copy of the photograph!

Better yet, make a flyer with the photo, and with relevant information, and contact numbers where people can call you and call authorities. If you are having trouble making a flyer, you can contact the Polly Klass Foundation and they will help you make the flyer at http://www.pollyklass.org or by phone at

If You Still Have Some Communication with Your Daughter...

If your daughter is willing to sit down and talk with you openly, you're in a good position to start working with her toward getting her the help she needs. If you're at this stage, see, Part 5 ~ Coming Back to a Future.

But if you've just begun to suspect she's being prostituted, in all likelihood your daughter will be stubbornly unwilling to answer all your questions about what she's doing and the people she's dealing with. This can be extremely frustrating for you, especially if you're her mother. But once she's closed down, Don't Panic! Don't Get Angry with Your Daughter! Don't Confront! and Don't Interrogate!

This is a very difficult set of instructions for a mother who is worried sick about her daughter. But you probably already know, if you confront or interrogate your daughter, she's just going to shut down even more. And one thing you want to do is keep the lines of communication as open and ongoing as possible. Try to remember that any girl who's being recruited into prostitution, is being pulled and coerced by forces that are way beyond her ability to control or even understand.

So instead of trying to get more information from her, try this tactic. Give your daughter information, Calmly, Firmly, Caringly!

Instead of confronting her or interrogating her, find your own words to arm your daughter with information that can help her. (Inform yourself as much as possible before talking with your daughter. Try to get written materials, too, so that you or someone else can pass them on to your daughter.)

The following are some of the things you can tell your daughter, or that you can ask another person to say to your daughter.

Tell her you love her and you're very concerned for her safety. Tell her you're afraid she may be being prostituted. But that even if she's not being prostituted, there are some important things about prostitution that every young girl should know.

Tell her that many, many young girls get targeted and tricked into prostitution. Explain to her how it works. Tell her that pimps usually start out being super nice; buying things, pretending love, and giving out money and drugs. Then they isolate the girl from her family and from other people who might be able to help her. Sometimes pimps isolate a girl by taking her to another city where she doesn't know her way around. Sometimes pimps isolate her simply by constantly degrading her family and friends. Once the girl is isolated, that's when the pimps turn up the insults, violence, and threats, to terrify the girl, and make her afraid of attempting to escape.

Without being overly dramatic, tell her that prostitution often leads to the death of the prostitute, by homicide, suicide, HIV, or drug overdose. And that prostitution is always doing serious damage to her spirit.

Explain that pimps will often tell a girl that if she tries to get help, they will come after her or her family and kill them. Tell her that if she ever finds herself in that kind of situation, she should always be looking for ways to escape anyway because you are not afraid, and because there are many ways to protect her and you.

Tell your daughter that if she ever gets in that kind of situation, that you will always be willing to help her no matter what. Tell her again that she should always think about ways to escape! Tell her she should always try to figure out where she is. And to look for someone she can trust.

Tell her that pimps will also try to make her afraid of going to police. But she should not be afraid to go to police! If she does call police she should tell police that she is being held against her will, and that she is afraid for her life.

Tell your daughter that you want her to do one thing for you. You want her to memorize a couple phone numbers, because pimps often confiscate a girl's cell phone. Have her memorize the name and number of one of the national hotline numbers above. Also, make sure she knows how to call 911.

Ask her if she would be willing to do one more thing. Ask her to please have a confidential phone conversation with Polaris or Children of the Night. If she's willing to do this, you dial the number, then leave the room and let her talk.

If your daughter won't stay in touch with you, ask her if there is someone else she is willing to stay in touch with, just so you can know that she's safe.

Tell your daughter you know of a program right now where she can get help. Try to have the program's written information in hand so you can give it to your daughter.

Convince your daughter there is always help and there is always hope. Tell her that no matter what insults get thrown at her, to stay strong by remembering that she is loved. That she deserves to escape and be free and be helped.

NOTE: If your daughter won't sit still for even this kind of talk, ask someone else to talk with her. Try to think of a person, or persons, who a) your daughter will listen to, and b) is mature enough herself (or himself) to deliver the message seriously. Consider teachers your daughter may have been fond of in the past, other family members, neighbors, parents of your daughter's friends, clergy, etc.. Give them the list of things you want your daughter to know. Ask them to try to contact your daughter, or to be ready to talk to her whenever they might come in contact with her.

If Your Daughter Admits to Being Prostituted... Or says something like, "So what if I am?" "What do you care?" "What are you going to do about it?" Tell her you're going to do absolutely everything possible to get her out of it because it is so dangerous and you couldn't bear to see her hurt. Go over the same information as above. Do everything you can to control her comings and goings, as you get others involved to help, though controlling her comings and goings is certainly more difficult as she gets into her teens. Also, keep in mind she may or may not be telling you the truth about being prostituted.

Think About What May Be Driving Her. There are many ways a girl can get involved in prostitution, including many ways that are purely accidental. That's why we've put together a section of true short stories (See Part 6 ~ True Stories) of the different ways girls have gotten pulled into prostitution. Still, studies how shown that a common history among girls who become prostituted is previous sexual abuse. Previous sex abuse makes a child vulnerable to prostitution because it robs a child of the understanding that they have the right to control their own body, especially their sexuality. Take some time to stop and think if there is someone who has been, or is currently, sexually abusing your daughter. If there is that possibility, you're going to have to attack that problem, too, and work to make sure that person is removed from the home, school, or neighborhood.

Learn More About How to Help a Child Recover Who has Been, or Who is Being, Prostituted

Even if you're able to get your daughter home, and get the pimps arrested, your journey toward helping your daughter has only just begun. The injuries and trauma of being prostituted are soul deep, especially for a youngster. Compounding these traumas, your daughter may also have acquired problems of drug addiction, physical injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, legal problems, educational lags, and more, especially if the girl has been prostituted for any length of time. Often these girls will need full time residential help from people who understand the full picture. Just trying to work on one part of the problem, like the drug addiction, or the emotional problems, or the legal problems, is not enough. Fortunately, there are more and more centers that are dedicated to helping prostituted girls with a fully integrated response to all their problems.

The more you know about available resources, the better you're going to be able to awaken your daughter's own desire to take advantage of help.

Here are some online resources with good information and leads to people you can talk to.

  • The GEMS Girls has a good list of centers around the U.S. that work with prostituted girls. Go to the GEMS web site. Call some of these programs on their list. Ask questions about their programs. Get their written materials so you can pass them to your daughter and to others who would be willing to give them to your daughters.

  • The 84 minute DVD "Very Young Girls", more than any other resource we've seen, will help you understand so much about what has happened to your daughter, and how she can be helped. The DVD was made by GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services. If you have Netflix, you can watch the DVD online here or, you can buy the DVD directly from GEMS for $35 here.

  • Here is an excellent, free, online self-teaching course that will give you a very comprehensive set of tips for helping a child who is being, or has been, prostituted. Unfortunately, this course has not been translated into Spanish.
    The Psychosocial Rehabilitation of Children Who Have Been Commercially Sexually Exploited

  • More free information and workbooks on commercial sexual exploitation of children, many of which are available in Spanish

Get Other People in Your Community Involved: You've heard the expression, "It takes a village to raise a child". Well, it's even more true that, "It takes a village to save a child." You're going to need help! Lots of help. The more people you can involve in your quest, ~ teachers, friends, neighbors, police, other parents ~ the more likely you're going to be able to quickly help your daughter. But, as you already know, it might be difficult to get people to care right away about one girl involved in prostitution because so many people have the old attitude that she must be a bad girl.

So here's one thing you can tell people about child prostitution that's so obvious that once you say it, many people will realize right away that it's true. The fact is that the biggest risk factor for all girls is the presence of pimps and johns in your neighborhood. If there are pimps and johns in your area going after one girl, it isn't long before they'll be going after another and another. All the youngsters in the neighborhood are at risk, especially the girls.

So just by reminding people of this fact, you'll likely be able to convince some of them that if you work together, you'll all be saving many young people from the danger. Give other people written materials or the web sites of programs for helping prostituted youngsters. Ask them to talk with your daughter, over and over again, if necessary. Give other people the web site for this guide you're reading now at:

Get Help for Yourself: In addition to seeking out people who can help you with your fight, it's also important to try and find people who are willing to listen to you and help support you emotionally. It is heartbreaking for a mother and other caring family members to see a young girl being sexually exploited or abused. Don't go through all this alone.

Go to Part 3 ~ Making the Police Report

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