Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Prostituted Children and The Battle to Save Them: A Book Review
Sher, J. (2013). Somebody’s daughter: The hidden story of America’s prostituted children and the battle to save them. Chicago, IL: JournalismNet Enterprises, Inc.is a revolting view into the lives of America’s prostituted young women and the society that allows their exploitation to continue. Divided into three sections; Innocence Lost, Confronting the Pimps, and Girls Are Not For Sale, Sher (2013) reveals the heartbreaking reality that is America’s Commercial Sex Trade Industry. He begins by addressing the terminology used explaining that referring to the victims of the sex trade industry as “child prostitutes” is inappropriate because it reduces the victim to an adjective and implies that the only difference between them and other adult prostitutes is age. A more appropriate term is “commercially sexually exploited children.” Sher (2013) refers to the sex trade as the new drug trade, with over 300,000 young girls are year being trafficked through the American Commercial Sex Trade Business.
American girls lost to themselves or running away from others find themselves working the “tracks,” a land of broken dreams where nothing, not even your own body belongs to you, where it is considered success to go from being a “track ho” on the streets to a “carpet ho” working in casinos, hotels, or other high profile sites. These girls find comfort in their pimps and other prostitutes, creating family and an “us and them” mentality that keeps them ensnared in a business that for many will end their lives. From Atlantic City’s “America’s Playground” or “Always Turned On” to Las Vegas Nevada’s “Sin City” or “What Happens in Vegas Stay’s In Vegas” the very essence of America’s biggest cities are wrought with a focus on sex and particularly sex with young women, the younger the better.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program through the Department of Justice report that 1.7 million youths between the ages of seven and seventeen run away. More than two thirds of them will be considered endangered, and at least 33% are lured into prostitution within only two days of leaving home.
Sher (2013) finds a way to dance the delicate line between sharing the horrific truth of the children lost in America’s commercial sex trade and the beauty and innocence of girls like Maria, who became ensnared at only 13 years old, or Felicia who became a prostitute at the early age of 14. He puts a face, a young and innocent yet brave face behind the falsehood that is prostitution. Sher tells the stories of Maria and other children who through their bravery are able to take down million-dollar prostitution rings and pimps who spent years traumatizing thousands of young girls while they rode in their Cadillacs and played God.
Blaming the hyper sexualized entertainment industry, Sher (2013) reports that in Las Vegas alone over 400 girls a year were being trafficked. Men travel to Las Vegas, considered by many to be the mecca for child prostitution, to find “women” “they can rent by the hour, by the act, or for the night.”
Sher (2013) also addresses the disturbing racism rampant in the sex trade industry where white girls are known as “snowflakes or swans” and black girls are “ducks”. Snowflakes and swans are more profitable than their non-white counterparts, reported by Sher (2013) to be because the average man purchasing women for sex was white and preferred to be with white women.
Sher combats the current belief that the young women in the snares of the sex trade industry foreign with the truth that for the most part, they are the discarded teens, the runaways from right here in America. For the most part those who have not been there do not understand which is why rescue groups are so very important. Former prostitutes and madams are building networks with the police and other authorities to reach out to these young women and help them be brave enough to leave. This isn’t an activity, it becomes a lifestyle, and identity that many of the discarded girls cling to in an effort to survive. While it may be a pimp or someone spending moments with them in a dirty hotel room, they for just a little while are somebody’s someone, and that is far more than they have ever been to anyone else.
Rape victims feel like they are finally in control, the abandoned find family, the helpless find that with the use of their body they have a moment of control. While it seems repulsive to the reader to think of a 40-year-old pimp with a 13-year-old girl, for the girl, it is a man giving her attention and “taking care of her”. By the time his abuse starts, she is in too deep and too alone to get help. Teens like Maria who do return home are so stigmatized by their communities and churches that going back to “being a ho” is better than being treated like one by people who should love and care for them.
The children arrested for prostitution are treated like adults and often face worse prosecution and consequences than the pedophiles who pay for their services. The music, tourism, and sex industry all fuel and create a pretty veil for the reality that is children being raped by grown men in exchange for money, many of which feeling like they are lucky for the attention or financial gain. The police, society, family members, really most everyone except for the rare rescue organization worker considers the child to be a willing participant, a criminal in no need of protecting. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Sher (2013) writes about how the weakness of the women involved is the sweetness of the pimp. Their brokenness becomes a building block for the pimp to build a fence to surround her.
The pimps report that most of the women in their “stable” are former victims of rape or molestation. They have spent their entire lives being used for the pleasure of others. Choosing to sell themselves when they have spent years having themselves stolen by others feels like triumph. Men like Knowledge, one of the primary characters in this real life nightmare, used threats, manipulation, even murder to keep the young girls in his control. Authorities’ like Garrabrant or Gil Shannon gather evidence and stand sickened at the brutality that is America’s Sex Trade. Children burned, chopped into pieces, tossed into shallow graves are the final result of a broken system blind to those who need help the most. One of the most painful cases was that of Rebecca who only 17 days after coming into contact with Garrabrant, she was found dead, stabbed to death, another statistic, except that statistics have faces. Statistics are the Maria’s, the Rebecca’s, the Princess’s of the world. They are children who in their most vulnerable times have been failed by their families, by their communities, and by the very authorities charged with enforcing laws made to protect them.
Gratefully people like Judge Voy of Las Vegas’s special youth prostitution court, Susan Roske and Teresa Lowry of the Juvenile Justice System come together with the help of specialized programs like STOP to intervene in the lives of America’s most vulnerable children. Sadly, more often than not they are unsuccessful, but it is improving. As police and juvenile justice workers become more aware of the complexities of the child sex trade in America, child after child is being drug from the depths of hell to a place of healing.
Sher, J. (2013). Somebody’s daughter: The hidden story of America’s prostituted children and the battle to save them. Chicago, IL: JournalismNet Enterprises, Inc.