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When Children Are Exploited
Recent Studies Illuminate the Plight of Children Who Become Victims of Sexual Exploitation

By Marlon Valdivia

December 2001/January 2002

Results from a study on commercial sexual exploitation of children in America were recently reported by Dr. Neil Weiner and Dr. Richard Estes of the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the study, approximately 325,000 children in the United States are subjected to sexual exploitation each year. The study also revealed that these children are victimized by sexual abuse, prostitution and bartering of sex, pornography, assault, and trafficking.

Of the total of the victimized youth, the majority had run away from their home, were thrown out of their home by their parents or guardians or were running away from a foster care home, juvenile detention center, group home or other type of institutions. The study reported that youth living on the streets are subjected to hunger, malnutrition, poverty, sexually transmitted diseases and violence, as well as substance abuse, mental illness, suicidal ideation and criminal behavior.

The commercial exploitation that these youth are subjected to could involve "monetary or non-monetary" exchange primarily or entirely for financial reasons. The non-monetary exchange usually includes food, shelter or drugs. The exchange usually benefits more the exploiter than the youth, and repeals the involved youth's basic rights, autonomy, physical and mental well being, as well as their dignity.

The report noted that many of the youth living on the streets with a high risk of sexual abuse and physical violence were actually running away from the same type of abuse and violence in their own homes.

An organization called the National Network for Youth focuses on programs and services for American youth. This organization recently joined forces with the National Alliance to End Homelessness to support President George W. Bush's request for $33 million for Transitional Living Program grants under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.

Assistance for youth is available in Los Angeles. For information on programs and services for youth, call the following resources:

Marlon Valdivia   Marlon Valdivia manages AIDS Project Los Angeles' Residential Services and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. He can be reached by calling (213) 201-1435, or by email at mvaldivia@apla.org.


Back to the December 2001/January 2002 issue of Positive Living.


This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).




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