By Julia Dahl, The Crime Report
Like a lot of 14-year-old girls, all Shaquana wanted was a boyfriend. The skinny Brooklyn, N.Y. eighth-grader was on the honor roll at school, but unhappy at home. She hadnt seen her father in years, and endured constant teasing about her looks from her siblings and verbal abuse from her strict, religious mother.
I used to pray every night that God would make me prettier and give me a boyfriend, says Shaquna, now 20, who asked that her last name not be used for this story.
In the spring of 2004, her prayers were answered or so she thought. Every day after school, as Shaquana walked to her job at a local farmers market, shed pass a guy who tried to get her attention. Youre so cute, hed tell her. Come here and talk to me. Shaquana ignored him for a while, but after a couple of weeks, she relented. The two exchanged numbers and started talking on the phone. She told him she was 15; she thought he was probably about 17.
He made me feel really comfortable, she remembers. Soon, they were meeting at the local park, then hanging out at his apartment, where he started to pressure her for sex. I told him it was a sin, but he was like, I like you a lot, and if you like me youre gonna do it. I thought that meant we would be together forever.
She was wrong. After they had sex a few times, he stopped calling, and told her to stop coming around. She was devastated, and finally went to his place to beg him to take her back. Thats when he told her the truth: he was 26 years old ?and a pimp.
He said, I dont have time for little girls, she says. He told me if I wanted to be with him I had to work for him, or just get lost. I was so focused on being with him that I said I would. Soon, Shaquana was going on dates he set up for her. He taught her how to perform oral sex, and strung her along, being nice one minute, manipulative the next. Shaquana says she felt completely trapped. It was so degrading, and I felt like I was the only one my age who could possibly be doing this.
She wasnt. By some estimates, there may be as many as 100,000 minors involved in the sex trade in the United States. The issue of under-age prostitution in the U.S. broke wide open last month when authorities say a young girl met football legend Lawrence Taylor in a New York motel room. Taylor, whose case will soon be presented to the grand jury, allegedly paid the 16-year-old runaway $300 for sex.
The girls alleged pimp, a man named Rasheed Davis, has also been indicted on charges of sex trafficking. But Davis may have nothing to worry about. The fact is that the men who pimp and pay for sex with underage girls in America typically do so with little fear of being prosecuted.
According to advocates and law enforcement authorities, witness intimidation and a lack of resources are persistent challenges. More troubling still, the cultural glamorization of pimps suggests that while our society treats child molesters as monsters, it glorifies men who turn troubled children into money-making sex machines. Examples range from the Oscar nominated pimp-with-a-heart-of-gold flick Hustle & Flow to the fact that the very word pimp has become synonymous with cool.
And there is little law enforcement can do to combat the insidious coolness of pimping.
You have self proclaimed pimps and drug dealers like Ice T, who capitalized on the lifestyle, says Officer Jim Saleda of the Oakland Police Department. I find it ironic that he now makes a ton of money playing a sexual assault detective on Law and Order: SVU.
Saleda has been working the track (a street or corner where prostitutes wait for johns) for 10 years, and thinks the lack of attention paid to these exploiters is despicable: These guys, theyre predators, theyre parasites they prey on these kids just like a pedophile
Oct 07 2013