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Gangs and Girls

Gangs and Girls: Understanding Juvenile Prostitution

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Gangs and Girls
    Book Description:

    They discuss how young men are drawn to gang life, how young girls become attracted and attached to the gang members who eventually sell them into prostitution, and why it is so hard to infiltrate and dismantle the distinct but interrelated worlds of the procurer, victim, and client. Rooted firmly in first person testimony, this research deepens our understanding of juvenile prostitution by identifying and exploring the types of motivations and circumstances that lead teenagers into prostitution rings.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7518-9
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. FOREWORD Researching Gang-Organized Juvenile Prostitution: Contributions and Challenges
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Cécilia Benoit

    The involvement of teenaged girls in gang-related prostitution is a continuous concern in many communities in Canada and abroad. Media headlines and government crime reports tell of predominantly middle-class female adolescents between the ages of twelve and eighteen being recruited into prostitution by male peers who are themselves often specifically targeted by organized crime. These male youth, vulnerable due to economic and other forms of marginalization, are typically promised gang membership in exchange for luring young women into the sex industry.

    Gangs and Girls: Understanding Juvenile Prostitutionby Michel Dorais and Patrice Corriveau, originally published in French in 2006 under...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    For a semblance of love, for money quickly earned and just as quickly spent, for a thrill or an adventure, or in some cases for no other reason than that they are coerced into it, many teenage girls today find themselves in the world of prostitution. They are the bread and butter of street gangs, for prostituting girls is a lucrative business and there is no shortage of new recruits. Yet the subject remains notably absent from academic gang studies. Do scholars consider it taboo, perhaps? The media for their part miss no opportunity to cover juvenile prostitution stories.


  7. 1 What Is a Street Gang and How Is It Organized?
    (pp. 7-16)

    Although our study is not about street gangs as such, a brief description of the phenomenon is necessary as background material. We have relied, where possible, on Quebec and Canadian research, of which relatively little has been produced on the subject. Most of the available documentation comes from the United States. We have drawn on this literature, since the situation in Canada is influenced by what is going on in the United States.²

    As Martin Scorsese’s filmGangs of New Yorksuggests, street gangs have roamed the large cities of North America since the nineteenth century, if not earlier (Asbury...

  8. 2 What Motivates Boys to Join Street Gangs? How Do They Become Members?
    (pp. 17-26)

    A great deal of work has been done since the 1930s on the motivations of boys who join street gangs and on their roles within gangs. Some facts are so obvious that they hardly deserve mention. Gangs are largely composed of youths from economically and socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Lacking better opportunities, some are easily tempted by illicit money-making schemes. Also important is that these youths generally come from visible minority communities that experience or have the impression of experiencing discrimination, exclusion, or ostracism. If they are the children of immigrants, they may be having difficulty adapting to the culture of...

  9. 3 What Is the Status of Girls in Street Gangs?
    (pp. 27-34)

    Unlike the United States, where an increasing number of girls are joining or forming gangs, Canada is thought to have few female gang members, and most of these generally remain in the peripheral circle.⁸ Machismo among gang members is one obvious explanation; another is stricter parental control over girls, whose socialization takes place more in the private sphere than in public (on the street). Girls simply have less opportunity to join a gang than do boys.

    Some scholars believe that the small numbers of girls identified as gang members merely reflect the hesitancy of law enforcement personnel to identify and...

  10. 4 How Do Gangs Recruit Girls for Prostitution?
    (pp. 35-45)

    There is little consensus among observers as to the nature of prostitution in general. Some see it as a profession like any other, while others consider it an abusive and violent relationship even when it occurs between consenting adults. This debate is beyond the scope of our book. However, even the strongest partisans of adult prostitution agree that juvenile prostitution is more than an exchange of sexual services for money: it involves a form of exploitation. The law in Canada is clear on this point: anyone under the age of 18 who participates in prostitution is deemed to be non-consenting....

  11. 5 What Is the Typical Profile of a Prostituted Girl?
    (pp. 46-58)

    It is never straightforward to generalize about people and behaviour. Each girl prostituted by a street gang is both similar to and different from her peers. As we attempted to understand how they think, act, and are influenced, we noticed a number of recurring themes. Some of our respondents were looking for love and found emotional dependency; others wanted easy money; still others were hungering after strong sensations and adventure. A few especially unfortunate ones had lost the capacity to decide for themselves, essentially being reduced to sex slaves. These varying motives and circumstances strongly inflected each girl’s behaviour and...

  12. 6 What Are the Characteristics of Street Gang-Controlled Prostitution Rings?
    (pp. 59-65)

    While not all street gangs operate prostitution rings, many studies affirm that such rings are now a typical part of their criminal repertoire (Blondin 1995; Grégoire 2001; Knox 2004; Cousineau 2004; Baraby 2005). Unlike drugs or stolen property, a girl can be repeatedly prostituted or “sold.” For pimps, she is walking cash register. Yet despite their designation, street gangs are not frequently involved with street prostitution of the kind practised by adult women and by boys.20Indeed, several studies (Lowman 1987; Shaver 1996; Parent and Bruckert 2005) have shown that many adult female prostitutes do not have procurers (although they...

  13. 7 Who Are the Clients of Juvenile Prostitution? Why Are They Interested in Minors?
    (pp. 66-77)

    The client represents the hidden face of juvenile prostitution. Some studies take such a single-mindedly supplyside approach that the client falls out of the picture: prostitution exists simply because girls and pimps have a service to provide. Yet it is obvious to anyone that this market is largely demand driven: no one is forcing men to seek out sex with underage girls.

    For pimps and prostituted girls, a client is a “trick”: basically, a wallet on legs, someone to take maximum advantage of because he is willing to spend money for sex. This is an enigma to many pimps, who...

  14. 8 Why Is It So Difficult to Dismantle Juvenile Prostitution Rings?
    (pp. 78-79)

    Prostituting minors is a high-risk activity. Street gangs know this all too well, especially after the crackdowns in recent years. Some consider it a matter of basic precaution to move full-time prostituted girls to another city, where they will not be recognized by relatives or neighbours and cannot get in touch with them in a situation of distress. In Quebec, moving a young francophone to an English-speaking region further isolates and destabilizes her.

    Another factor hindering the fight against juvenile prostitution is that street gangs operate for the most part as relatively autonomous cells – a bit like terrorist cells – and...

  15. 9 How Are Street Gangs Linked to Organized Crime?
    (pp. 80-84)

    Exploiting people’s guilty pleasures has always been a profitable business for all kinds of criminals, organized and otherwise. During Prohibition, the clandestine production, importation, and sale of alcohol made colossal fortunes for the suppliers. Prostitution, particularly in situations where it allows clients to transgress taboos, has always been a lucrative market. Street gangs did not invent juvenile prostitution, but they changed the conditions under which it takes place. Their recruitment methods, drawing heavily on seduction, enable them to attract girls who would never otherwise have considered prostitution. What is more, the gangs surround the business with an aura of glamour,...

  16. 10 Why Is It Hard for Girls to Testify against Pimps and Clients?
    (pp. 85-90)

    Quebec City’s Operation Scorpion, which led to several prosecutions, showed how difficult it is to obtain ironclad evidence against clients and pimps and, in particular, to establish the credibility of the victims’ testimony. Considering and treating these girls as ordinary witnesses seems particularly counterproductive.

    Prostitution, especially in the context of intimidation and violence that characterizes street gangs, causes genuine trauma in many girls, compounding the hurt caused by their difficult family background. While it is relatively easy to fall into the trap of gang-controlled prostitution, it is much harder to get out. It depends on the gang and the pimp....

  17. 11 What After-Effects Do Prostituted Girls Experience?
    (pp. 91-96)

    Apart from post-traumatic stress syndrome and Stockholm syndrome, a great many conditions may affect girls who have gone through juvenile prostitution. The typology presented above (sex slaves, submissives, daredevils, and independents) suggests that emotions and feelings may differ depending on the persons involved. The nature and extent of these physical, psychological, emotional, and relational after-effects will depend on the girl’s personality, the support available to her, her status within the gang and its culture, her family background, her experience in prostitution, the amount of time she devoted to it, her personal worldview, and any violence inflicted on her or other...

  18. 12 How Can These Girls Be Helped?
    (pp. 97-104)

    For a researcher (one of the co-authors) who worked for many years as a caseworker before teaching in this field, it would be unthinkable to write a book on juvenile prostitution without a few remarks about how these young people can be helped.

    Has the situation changed at all since the publication ofLes enfants de la prostitution(Dorais 1987)? At the time, because they were associated with delinquency, juvenile and even child prostitution were perceived as the problem – in fact, the responsibility – of their victims. If the book has accomplished anything, we hope that it has rectified this misconception....

  19. 13 How Can Girls Be Prevented from Getting into Prostitution?
    (pp. 105-112)

    The foregoing discussion has made clear that for most of the girls entrapped by street gangs, their entry into prostitution is a gradual process. The earlier and more preventive the intervention in that process, the better. We are, of course, the first to recognize that prevention should focus not only on the girls but also on the clients, who create the demand for juvenile prostitution, and the pimps, who profit handsomely from it. We discuss prevention for gang-prone boys in chapter 14.

    To a compassionate observer, the striking, perhaps even mystifying feature of many of these girls’ stories is the...

  20. 14 What about Prevention for Gang-Prone Boys?
    (pp. 113-125)

    As we have stated, our purpose here is not to analyze the phenomenon of street gangs. Still, their key role in juvenile prostitution calls for stepped-up prevention and intervention for boys. If these efforts are to succeed, however, we must comprehend that membership in a gang may meet legitimate needs. Low-income, excluded, or marginalized young males in particular may look to gangs for self-defence and peer-group identification. Why do street gangs appear to meet these needs? Indeed, why do gangs represent such an apparently ideal solution for so many youths? What specific alternatives can we offer them?

    If there is...

  21. Conclusion
    (pp. 126-130)

    The phenomenon of street gangs in our large cities appears, unfortunately, to be on the rise, and prostitution is one of their principal activities. For boys from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is a tremendous ego booster, not to mention a source of profit, to have pretty girls at their beck and call. Indeed, for a great many men this has always been the ultimate sign of social success.

    Gangs did not invent juvenile prostitution, but they did redefine it and bring younger girls into the business. Our knowledge of these clandestine phenomena is still woefully inadequate and must evolve in step...

    (pp. 133-136)
  23. Appendix Two STUDY METHODOLOGY
    (pp. 137-138)
  24. Notes
    (pp. 139-144)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 145-162)
  26. Index
    (pp. 163-164)