Study Details Scope of Child Prostitution

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SAN DIEGO -- Initial results of a study on juvenile prostitution show that 23% of law enforcement agencies have dealt with cases involving a juvenile being prostituted by a family member and that 21% have dealt with juveniles involved in prostitution who were still living in the family home.

University of New Hampshire researchers have started to collect information on the scope and the specifics of juvenile prostitution in this country by surveying law enforcement agencies. The findings of the survey may represent the first good information on the prevalence and the characteristic features of juvenile prostitution collected in the United States, Kimberly J. Mitchell, Ph.D., said at a conference sponsored by the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Children's Hospital and Health Center, San Diego.

Some data have been available in the past, but those numbers are problematic because in some cases the child has been prosecuted as an offender, and in others the child is treated as a victim, she said. Moreover, some incidents are treated and classified as sexual abuse rather than prostitution. Estimates of how many children may be involved in prostitution range from 100,000 to 3 million.

"National estimates [on juvenile prostitution] really vary all over the place," said Dr. Mitchell, a researcher with the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, Durham.

"More efforts are needed to understand how to help these kids," she added. …