New America Media, News Report, Nicole Hudley
SACRAMENTO — Erica Lawrence became worried about her friend when she started acting distant, losing weight, and getting into fights at school. Her worry turned to dread when the friend became pregnant and ran away from home and Lawrence, 16, didn’t know where to find her. Months went by before Lawrence finally discovered that her friend had run away with a man who she said loved her and would take care of her. He only asked for one thing in return – that she have sex with strangers for money.
Lawrence testified in Sacramento last month during a senate hearing on the sexual exploitation of youth, a problem that advocates and law enforcement officials say is a growing concern. Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who recently authored a bill to address the problem, convened the hearing.
Because of the high financial rewards and relatively low risk of arrest, California-based gangs that in the past relied on drug and weapon sales for money are increasingly turning to prostitution — including prostitution of minors, according to a recent report by the California Child Welfare Council. Nationally, the FBI reports that 100,000 children between the ages of 11 and 14 fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation each year in the United States.
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