Friday’s presentation of “Black Girl Lost: The Sexual Exploitation of American Girls,” held at The Brooklyn Commons, Downtown Brooklyn, included a film screening of “Very Young Girls”, followed by an expert panel discussion.
Panelist included Psychologist and Teen Expert, Dr. Scyatta Wallace; GEMS Outreach Coordinator, Kalima DeSuze; and Survivor Leadership Coordinator, Sheila, a young woman who has gone through GEMS Survivor Leadership program.
Although the event flyer did not mention that “Very Young Girls” was the film to be screened, the event was very well attended with close to 90 men, women and children. Although women were the majority, about 10 men and 5 teenagers were present.
After the film viewing, moderator Shayna D, Diva Lounge creator and radio personality, asked pointed questions that allowed for enlightening panel responses.
Why don’t people know about sex trafficking of Black and Brown girls?
In reply to why the issue of sex trafficking is so ‘hush-hush’ in our communities, Dr. Wallace suggested that it is really a difficult topic to digest, and that it is easier to think about these crimes happening in another country, than to think that somebody you may know from your neighborhood is doing these bad things. She reminds us however, if young girls are dealing with this issue, then it is time for us to deal with it as well. For those of us that may not know, these young girls have not made a conscious choice to be sexually exploited.
The issue of demand
Kalima DeSuze passionately called for the community to look at the issue of demand – meaning the men in your lives – your husbands, your brothers, your uncles. These men create the supply by the act of engaging in commercial sex, thereby ‘demanding’ the existence of the supply (young girls). She stresses that without the ‘demand’, there would not be a supply, and further explains that the legend of the Jezebel combined with racist attitudes, support the concept of the over-sexualized Black woman and feeds into the image that certain girls, dressed in a certain way are ‘hot’; and the girl living the street life, is ‘fast’. These images depict the girls as culprits rather than victims. Kalima also advises that we check ourselves as we find it easier to have more sympathy for the girl from Romania or Thailand, than for the ‘girl around the way’. And lastly, she suggests that we consider how we get offended when we look at the way other countries treat their women; but have little to no concern about how we treat our own women in this country.
The vulnerable girl
Responses to Shayna D’s next question painted a picture of how young girls’ vulnerability and acceptance of abuse, allow her to be further victimized. Girls who come from a household with domestic violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and drug abuse are often clear targets for exploiters. Pimps, no longer seen as flashy dressers in orange suits, look and act like the guy next door – in fact he probably is. The exploiters play on the girls’ low self esteem and offer a listening, non judgmental ear, and a shoulder to cry on. Sheila says it’s the small things that he does that makes him appealing boyfriend-material and provides, in the girl, a sense of hope – initially. At the point where the girl becomes emotionally involved, is when the pimp then convinces her, through force, shame, or coercion to work for him.
A child that is prostituted is considered, under the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children law, a victim of sex trafficking. If you are, or know of a child under 18 in this situation, please contact The Brooklyn DA’s office at 718-250-2770.
For more ways to get help, click here. http://joltleft.com/crime-in-new-york/how-to-get-help-sex-and-human-trafficking-prostitution-of-a-minor
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~~~~~Part 2 of this article follows in another article.~~~~~