“To solve a problem you have to understand it. So to solve this prostitution problem, you have to understand the girls.”
-Anonymous, victim of sexual exploitation
This statement from a teenager who was trafficked by a pimp on Oakland’s streets may seem simple enough. And yet for all the debate about youth prostitution in America, where are the voices and perspectives of the people at the center of it all -- the girls who are trafficked?
For more than six months, Youth Radio has been investigating child sex trafficking in Oakland. It's a system of exploitation that's ensnaring girls across America. The FBI has said more than 300,000 children and youth per year are forced into prostitution. But perspectives from the girls themselves, who are caught up in what's known as "the game," are often missing from reports.
The series Trafficked tells the story of two young women, Darlene and Brittney (not their real names), who became teenagers in Oakland around the time the FBI named their city one of the country’s hotspots for child prostitution. The Youth Radio investigation draws on interviews, eyewitness reporting, and city records to piece together what life is like for girls when they become trapped by pimps -- and how law enforcement continues to criminalize girls the state legally defines as sexually exploited victims.
In addition to the broadcast stories, Youth Radio will publish interviews with high school students currently working as prostitutes in California and a handwritten pimp "business plan" provided by prosecutors, and delve into the controversy of whether some Bay Area hip hop music glorifies sex trafficking.
To listen to the series and read the reports, click here.