Children's Voice September/October 2007

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Know the Signs

There is no particular way to determine if a young woman is being sexually exploited, but providers can ask her about her involvement in a nonjudgmental, caring manner, letting her know the provider is open to the truth. If she is not ready to disclose what's going on, the following behaviors, clustered together, may indicate she is being sexually exploited:

She has an altered physical appearance, including
  • new, expensive clothes,
  • sexually suggestive clothes,
  • frequent hairstyle and color changes,
  • suggestive make-up, or
  • tattoos, perhaps of a pimp's name or the young woman's street name.
She appears exhausted, wanting to sleep during the day and stay awake at night.

She has unexplainable absences from home or residential care:
  • She is gone for a long time, reportedly in a major city.
  • She runs away with relative frequency and will not disclose where she has been.
She owns multiple pagers or cell phones that go off at all hours.

She has a street name.

She is involved with a male who
  • is older than she is;
  • has a street name, and she doesn't know his real name;
  • carries a lot of cash, but she doesn't know how he makes a living;
  • is violent toward her; or
  • buys her a pager or cell phone.
She has a history of multiple sexually transmitted infections or pregnancies.

She spends a tremendous amount of time online.

She's frequently truant from school.

She has an interest in pornography and the sex industry.

She has new friends, including females who are much older.

She is disconnected from her family or other caregivers.

She has lost interest in age-appropriate activities.

--Lisa Goldblatt Grace


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