Conceptualizing Juvenile Prostitution as Child Maltreatment: Findings from the National Juvenile Prostitution Study

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University of New Hampshire, Sage Publications

While juveniles involved in prostitution were previously viewed as adolescent runaways and “street youth” engaging in delinquent behavior, it has become clearer to social service agencies and the criminal justice system that these cases are a serious form of victimization: “commercial sexual exploitation.”

Researchers for this report conducted two studies to identify and define the characteristics of juvenile prostitution cases found in U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The first study helped researchers determine the national estimate of arrests or detentions involving juvenile prostitution: about 1,450 in 2005. They also found that while the number may not be accurate, due to cases that are not reported, various law enforcement agencies had not made any arrests that year.

The second study allowed researchers to gather information on the kinds of juvenile prostitution police found and how youths were treated in the criminal justice system. Based on a subsample of cases from police records in 2005 categorized into third-party exploiters, solo prostitution and conventional child sexual abuse (CSA), researchers classified how police viewed the juveniles. Fifty-three percent of juveniles were considered victims, 31 percent as delinquents and 16 percent as both.

The findings suggest that child prostitution is not a high priority for law enforcement agencies and that how to deal with juveniles involved in prostitution is a growing dilemma.

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