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The Hidden Crisis: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Girls

YWCA USA and Women's Policy, Inc. Co-Sponsor Capitol Hill Briefing

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- American girls as young as 10 are being coerced and lured into prostitution as a result of desperation, poverty or manipulation by adults. Many of these girls are especially vulnerable -- runaways, survivors of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse, have a mental illness or developmental disability, or abuse drugs/alcohol. They are crime victims, exploited by individuals who use violence, death threats and drugs to control them.

These findings were highlighted at a Capitol Hill briefing today, titled Girls for Sale: The Truth about Commercial Sexual Exploitation in the United States, co-sponsored by the YWCA USA and Women's Policy, Inc.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, said, "We need more safe houses and transitional living facilities for these girls, as well as programs to educate men about the devastation caused by this sexual exploitation. At the same time, the criminal justice system must become more aggressive towards those who promote, conduct and profit from commercial sexual exploitation of girls."

The number of children thought to be at-risk for sexual exploitation is estimated to range from 200,000 - 300,000(1). "One thing is clear -- we need better data collection to help us understand the true nature and scope of this problem," said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey L. Sedgwick, U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs. "We can then provide support to communities with high rates of commercial sexual exploitation of girls."

"Most people think of this as an international problem, either occurring elsewhere or 'imported' through the trafficking of women into this country. But, we want to bring to light that this is very much a domestic problem, involving young girls and teens from U.S. cities and suburbs across this nation," said Lorraine Cole, PhD, YWCA USA's CEO. "We need to raise national public awareness about this hidden crisis. We also need more preventive services that can shield girls from all forms of sexual abuse, including commercial exploitation."

Other speakers included: Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night in Los Angeles (; Rachel Lloyd, founder and executive director of Girls Education and Mentoring Services (GEMS) in New York City (; and Shaquana Blount, a survivor and outreach worker for Girls Education and Mentoring Services.

The briefing was held in cooperation with U.S. Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Ginny Brown-Waite, co-chairs, Violence Against Women Task Force, Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, and Reps. Thelma Drake, Carolyn Maloney, and Deborah Pryce, co-chairs, Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking.

For more information, read the YWCA's 2008 Trafficking in Women Fact Sheet at and Commercial Exploitation of Children, published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007, at

YWCA USA is a national not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to social service, advocacy, education, leadership development, and racial justice. Its mission is the empowerment of women and the elimination of racism. Established in the United States in 1858, the YWCA is the oldest and largest national women's organization, and celebrating its 150th anniversary. Through its nearly 300 affiliated local YWCAs and its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the YWCA serves 2.5 million women and girls each year. Globally, the YWCA USA is a member of World YWCA, which has affiliates in 122 countries that serve 25 million women and girls worldwide. For more information, visit Contact: Nancy Loving, Communications Director, at 202-467-0801 or YWCA USA, 1015 - 18th Street, NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036.

Women's Policy, Inc. (WPI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose sole focus is to help ensure that the most informed decisions on key women's issues are made by policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. For more information, visit Contact: Cindy Hall, President, 202-554-2323 or Women's Policy, Inc. 409 12th Street, SW, Suite 310, Washington, DC 20024.

(1) Estes & Weiner. The commercial sexual exploitation of children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work, 2001.

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