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A Guide for Mothers, Grandmothers, and Others
for Helping a Girl Caught in Prostitution
or Sex Trafficking

Part 5 ~ Coming Back to a Future

If you've been successful at getting your daughter to a safe place out of the immediate grip of pimps and johns, you've done a phenomenal job for your daughter. Truly, you should be deserving of time to rest and relax in peace. But, unfortunately, in order to fully protect your daughter and bring her back to life there's more that needs to be done. Prostitution is very damaging to a youngster. Their spirits and sense of themselves are often so broken, they usually can't find their way back to a new life on their own, unless they get some expert help. Without help, they are at risk of sliding right back into the grip of prostitution.

In addition to the psychological damage, your daughter may also suffer one or more of the other injuries and injustices related to being prostituted. Your daughter may have problems with drugs, may be malnourished, behind in her education, lacking friends, burdened with legal problems, have sexually transmitted diseases, or behavior problems. Any or all of these things can be remedied, but they generally do need attention.

One of the most important things you can do right away for your daughter is to let her know that you believe in her, and that you believe she can have a bright future. Right now your daughter likely doesn't believe in herself. So no matter how damaged she may seem to you, it's so important you don't despair. Remember, the good news is that there is more help and understanding for these youngsters now than there has ever been before. Your belief that your daughter can get back on her feet will be contagious, and will be the first big step in getting her there.

Here are some more tips for taking the next steps:

  • Understand that your daughter is very traumatized. She's probably not going to return to her old self in days or even weeks, especially if she's been prostituted for any length of time. Being prostituted means that she was constantly degraded, raped, threatened and treated as an inhuman commodity. Getting angry or criticizing her won't help. Always keep in mind that she's been subject to forces and atrocities that were way beyond her capacity to understand or control. It's very important that you don't blame her.

  • Remember, too, that your daughter is young. With the right help your daughter's youth is going to work in her favor. With the right help she can make big changes and have a bright future. Tell her you believe in her! Remind her of her dreams! Give her hope! Tell her she deserves to have a happy life!

  • Involve your daughter as much as possible in exploring sources of help. (Places to call are listed a little further on.)

    • It may be that your daughter is willing to get help, which is wonderful. In this case you and she can get right to work together to find a program that will work for her. As you search around and call different programs, be sure to have your daughter get on the phone to talk with the people so she has a chance to ask questions about issues that are relevant to her. The more you can involve your daughter in the search and decisions about the kind of help she gets, the more likely she'll particapte wholeheartedly.

    • If your daughter is not open to being helped, don't get into a battle with her about it. Here are some different things you can try to maybe coax her along. Break it down into smaller steps! Tell your daughter that you're not going to force her into any program. But tell her that you do want her to talk on the phone with a person from one of the programs. (Give her the list of questions further on in this section that she can use once she gets on the phone.) Or if she's not willing to look at programs for prostituted girls, see if you can't get her to see a supportive counselor, a victim advocate, or a drug counselor, etc. Another tactic is to get other people to talk with her, such as a favorite teacher, another parent, a grandparent. Many completely normal teenagers can listen to advice much better from a trusted adult other than her own parents.

    • Despite all your efforts, it may be that your daughter absolutely refuses any and all help related to her problems. In fact, she may be stubbornly unwilling to even admit that she has any problems at all. She may believe she can just pick up her life where she left off. Don't panic! After serious trauma, believing that you can just pick up where you left off is a common coping mechanism. And, surprisingly, sometimes it works. Sometimes people are better able to deal with serious problems by first putting a little normalcy back in their lives before getting help.

      So if your daughter refuses all your efforts to connect her to help, don't panic! Don't do battle! Tell your daughter gently that you don't agree with her, that you're concerned for her safety and happiness, but that you're not going to force her to get help. Tell her that you're going to work with her as she goes back into school or to a job, but that you're going to bring the subject up again if you see she's having trouble.

  • If you haven't done so already, look through the GEMS online list of programs around the country for prostituted girls. Get on the phone and call some of these resources. Here we reprint a list of help lines and some online resources with good information and leads to people you can talk to.

24/7, Toll Free, Confidential Help Lines for Child Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

  1. Children of the Night, Toll Free, Confidential, National Hotline, Child Prostitution
    1-800-551-1300 (se habla español)

  2. Polaris Toll Free, Confidential, National Hotline, Sex Trafficking:
    (Multilingual) 1-888-3737-888
    Korean Hotline 1-888-976-5274
    Spanish Hotline 1-888-80-AYUDA (1-888-80-29832)
    If you feel more comfortable writing an email, write Report@PolarisProject.org

  3. Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (not toll free)
    (U.S., Mexican Border)
    24-hr Trafficking Emergency Hotline - Bilingual (Spanish/English)
    from the U.S. call (619) 666-2757
    from Mexico call (664) 686-1717

    The GEMS Girls has a good list of centers around the U.S. that work with prostituted girls. Go to the GEMS web site here. Call some of these programs on their list. Ask questions about their programs. Get their written materials so you can pass them to your daughter and to others who would be willing to give them to your daughters.

    If you are in Mexico, call the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition. From inside Mexico call, (664) 686-1717

    If you are in another country aside from Mexico or the United States, you can start by calling your domestic violence and rape centers and asking them to direct you to resources for prostituted girls

    The 84 minute DVD "Very Young Girls", more than any other resource we've seen, will help you understand so much about what has happened to your daughter, and how she can be helped. The DVD was made by GEMS, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services. If you have Netflix, you can watch the DVD online now or, you can buy the DVD directly from GEMS for $35 here

  4. Here is an excellent, free, online self-teaching course that will give you a very comprehensive set of tips for helping a child who is being, or has been, prostituted. Unfortunately, this course has not been translated into Spanish.
    The Psychosocial Rehabilitation of Children Who Have Been Commercially Sexually Exploited

  5. More free information and workbooks on commercial sexual exploitation of children, many of which are available in Spanish

Questions to ask when you talk with a Program for Prostituted Girls:

After you tell the person a little about your daughter's situation, here are some of the things you can ask...

    • What do you have available to help my daughter? How much experience do you have working with prostituted girls?

    • Is your program exclusively for girls who have been prostituted? Or are the girls mixed in with youngsters who have behavioral or criminal problems? (Always try to find a program that is exclusively for girls who are prostituted.)

    • Is your program a drop-in program or a residential program?

    • What is the philosophy of your program? Religious based? Women's and girls' rights based? Social service based?

    • Describe a typical day for a girl in your program.

    • Do you provide: Legal advocacy? Drug addiction help? Health care? Academic education? Social and living skills education? Psychological therapy? Vocational and career counseling?

    • Is education provided by the program or is education in the public school system?

    • What are your rules? What is your discipline system?

    • How do you work with and communicate with the girl's parents? Is there a regular time for parental visitation? Phone calls?

    • Is there a cost to the parent of the girl in the program?

    • What do you do if a girl runs away from the program?

    • How long can a girl stay in the program? Is she welcome back if she runs away?

    • Can my daughter and I visit the program? Is it possible for myself or my daughter to talk on the phone with one or more of the girls who are currently in the program?

  • If your daughter slips back into prostitution, don't despair! Much like domestic violence, it often takes a girl a number of tries to free herself from prostitution. Because it's not unusual for a girl to get pulled back into prostitution, make sure she knows that you're not going to give up on her.

  • Don't exhaust yourself when things aren't working out the way you think they should. When you're not getting the results you want, sometimes it's best to step back for a while to consider another strategy or to wait for a new opportunity. If you exhaust yourself pushing for a given result, you can get to the point where you can't see another path or a new door that's opened. It's important, too, to remember, that you can't control it all.

What's of most critical importance and value is that you've communicated to your daughter that you're willing to help when she's ready. She knows the effort you're willing to make. And she knows you've gathered the information that can connect her to help. Sometimes it just takes a little time for girl to come around. Meanwhile, do everything you can to keep the lines of communication open, even if it's through friend.

Go to Part 6 ~ Six True Stories

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