The sexual trafficking of girls "is more similar in America and Cambodia than we would like to admit," writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Teen prostitution is "one of our country's biggest human rights problems." These teenagers are victims, not criminals, and the system is failing them badly. "The police and prosecutors should focus less on punishing 12-year-old girls and more on their pimps," writes Kristof, "and, yes, their johns."
Kristof's column revolves around a new book, Girls Liks Us by Rachel Lloyd, a former teen prostitute and stripper who only escaped her pimp after he nearly beat her to death. Her memoir offers a window into sexual trafficking in the US. "Americans often think that 'trafficking' is about Mexican or Korean or Russian women smuggled into brothels in the United States," but more often it's "homegrown American runaways," Kristof writes. "Teenage girls on American streets may appear to be selling sex voluntarily, but they’re often utterly controlled by violent pimps who take every penny they earn." (Click for another column that advocates arresting child prostitutes.)