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

Part 4 ~ If Your Daughter Gets Arrested for Prostitution or Prostitution-related Charges

We feel strongly that girls who are being prostituted should not be arrested for prostitution. Nor should they be arrested for all the other related charges on the books that police can use to arrest these girls, such as 'drug possession' or 'using false documents'. Any girl who is prostituted is a victim of far more serious crimes, such as the serial rapes, threats, beatings, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and all of the other day-in, day-out abuses that are perpetrated against prostitutes. Those are the crimes police should be pursuing.

When a prostituted girl gets arrested the harm is twofold. First, it gives the scorching message to the girl that all the abuse she has suffered in prostitution is her own fault, so much her own fault that the state sees the need to step in to punish her. The other harm of arresting the girls (and women) is that it plays right into the hands of the pimps and johns. It strengthens the control that pimps and johns have over the prostitutes because it blocks out law enforcement as a source of help. By arresting the prostitutes law enforcement becomes an integral contributing part of the power structure that perpetuates the prostitution of women and girls.

Yet, because of the status of the law today, and because of the attitudes of police, there is the very real possibility that your daughter may be arrested. It is an outrage in the United States that five to six times as many females are arrested for prostitution offenses as are males.

Still, if your daughter does get arrested, there are some ways you can make the best of the situation, and use the arrest to get her closer to help. After an arrest, it may be the first time in a long time you can sit down and talk with your daughter safely outside the influence of the streets. Furthermore, an arrest may provide you an opportunity to get your daughter into a good program.

So here are some tips on how to take advantage of an arrest to best help your daughter:

  1. Before going into juvenile hall to talk with your daughter, take some time to think about what you want to say. Consider the possibility of taking someone in with you, such as special family member, clergy, or teacher. Sometimes a teen girl can listen better to someone other than her mother. Sometimes not. But it is worth considering ahead of time.

  2. When you first hear that your daughter is arrested it's a good time to pick up the phone and call one or more of the confidential help lines we listed in Part 2. Then call the juvenile hall or the juvenile public defenders office. Try to find out the exact charges against your daughter. Find out names of the public defender and/or the juvenile probation officer who are assigned to her case. Ask about the visiting schedule, and the date and nature of her next court appearance. Don't agree to any deals until you've had the opportunity to inform yourself of all the options available.

  3. Before talking with your daughter, try to at least start gathering information about available programs. Don't skip over a program just because it's not in your immediate area.

  4. When you or other people talk with your daughter, don't blame her for the trouble she's in. It may be true that your daughter has disobeyed many of your rules about such things as attending school, what time to come home, or who she can and cannot spend time with. But that's very different than holding her responsible for the oppressive realities of prostitution that have come down on her. No girl is responsible for that. It's important that you make that distinction clear to your daughter. Right now, the most serious and pressing events in her life are the injuries and consequences of being prostituted. This is not her fault. The other issues of her behavior at home can be dealt with later.

  5. So it's worth repeating. When you or others talk with your daughter it's very important you stay calm and non-judgmental. No doubt this can be very difficult given the intense fears you have for your daughter. So take some time before going in to see your daughter to gather your thoughts and compose your emotions. Don't let your daughter's behavior annoy you or distract you from the very serious job of mothering you need to do now.

  6. Call, or better yet, arrange to meet with your daughter's public defender, probation officers, and any other official connected with your daughter's case. Ask them and tell them about the various program possibilities for your daughter. Try to get specific agreements with officials about a plan of action for your daughter before going into court. Your best goal is probably to have both the officials and your daughter agree to have her enter a program of your choice for prostituted girls.

  7. If your daughter was arrested for a minor crime other than prostitution, such as drug possession, run away, or using false documents, you should make sure to early on persuade officials that the underlying problem is that your daughter is being prostituted. Don't let that reality stay hidden. Officials have to be aware of the underlying problem in order for there to be any hope of them directing her to the full complement of help she needs.

  8. If you are not happy with the response you're getting from these officials, follow the tips we've listed for getting a better response from police. Don't hesitate to go to an official's superior to express your dissatisfactions and to ask for specific changes.

  9. Stay very closely involved in your daughter's case. Remember, this case may be your opportunity to get your child the help she needs.

    NOTE: In the last ten years, some countries and states have begun to incorporate the understanding that girls and women are the victims of prostitution and should not be arrested.

    • In 2008, New York State passed the New York Safe Harbor for Exploited Youth Act. Prior to passage of the Safe Harbor Act, prostituted youth were arrested, charged, and treated as offenders rather than as child victims of sexual exploitation. The Safe Harbor Act, effective April 1, 2010, amends the New York Family Court Act to allow for child victims of prostitution to defer criminal prosecution and instead petition for consideration as a person in need of supervision. In addition, the Safe Harbor Act amends the New York Social Services Law by enhancing child protection services in providing critical support and social services to these child victims of prostitution. Thus, instead of being re-victimized by the criminal justice system, child victims of sexual exploitation will now be able to gain access to emergency shelters and receive medical, therapeutic, and educational services and care necessary to successfully transition back into the community.

      On signing the law, New York State Governor Peterson made this statement, "As a society we must do everything in our power to prevent sexual exploitation, but when it does occur we must be prepared to assist our youth with appropriate outreach services. For too long we have been disciplining young children who are the victims of brutal sexual exploitation instead of providing them with the necessary services to reintegrate them into society to ensure they receive adequate crisis intervention."

      To learn more about this act, click here.

    • In 1999 Sweden passed legislation that decriminalized the prostitutes, criminalized the buying of sex, and provided extensive services for any prostitute that wanted to get out of prostitution. To read more on this highly successful national program, see Sweden's Prostitution Solution; Why Hasn't Any One Tried This Before?

Go to Part 5 ~ Coming Back to a Future

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