A history class lesson at Washington, D.C.’s Coolidge High School was the degrading names pimps have for the girls and women whose bodies they exploit. The Washington Post says the point of the exercise — run by a group that typically fights sex trafficking in foreign countries — was to highlight the intractable problem of child prostitution. There has been a concerted local effort to break up prostitution networks and improve services for youths rescued from the streets. “There is still a market for young girls,” said Bradley Myles of the Polaris Project, which seeks to stop human trafficking.
The D.C. Human Trafficking Task Force, which investigates adult and child prostitution, found 32 cases in the past year of teenage girls being coerced into sex for money by older men. Fewer than a dozen of those cases resulted in full-scale criminal investigations. A national study funded by the U.S. Justice Department in 2001 estimated that as many as 300,000 runaways and otherwise homeless youths under 18 were sexually exploited. A group called the Fair Fund typically works in Serbia, Bosnia, Russia, and Kenya. Now it is going into six D.C. high schools chosen, in part, based on police reports of family and domestic violence in neighborhoods that funnel students to the schools. Since November 2007, it has reached 820 students, trained dozens of teachers and received 56 notes from students seeking help. Some said they were raped by their fathers or know of teenagers involved in prostitution. A few said they were homeless. Police and advocates say some juveniles trade sex for a place to stay or food.