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Report: Teens Turn to Prostitution to Afford Designer Clothes
Aired August 11, 2003 - 19:37 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, teenage prostitution is often considered a crime of poverty and desperation. But a recent article in the latest "Newsweek" shows the sex crime is growing among an unexpected part of the population.
Young girls and in some cases young boys from middle and upper class families are reportedly turning tricks to raise cash for among other things, designer clothes. The trend is growing so rapidly that the FBI is targeting 13 cities across the country where juvenile prostitution appears deeply entrenched.
"Newsweek" reporter Suzanne Smalley wrote the article. She joins me now.
Suzanne, thanks very much for being with us.
SUZANNE SMALLEY, "NEWSWEEK": Thanks for.
COOPER: This term designer sex, what does that mean?
SMALLEY: A University of Pennsylvania scholar named Richard Estes (ph) conducted a three-year and $400,000 study into the problem of juvenile prostitution. And while he was doing his research, he stumbled across, much to his surprise, he told me, a group of young people who were living at home with their parents and turning tricks while their parents were at work or away from the house and basically doing it to make money to buy electronics or clothing that they couldn't otherwise afford.
I went to Minneapolis to report the story on juvenile prostitution in general, knowing that the FBI launched this task force in Minneapolis among other cities, and during a police sting met a young woman who I call Stacey (ph) in my article, who is 17, lives in a very affluent suburb with her parents, who are married, loving home, trying out for the tennis team and...
COOPER: So why is she doing this?
SMALLEY: She -- obviously we can't ask questions about any -- you know, her emotional problems, but she presents it as a very nice and normal young woman. I think that it represents a larger turn in society which is that younger people are realizing that their bodies are a commodity and there is increasing social pressure to have all of the best brand names and they...
COOPER: And as a culture, our culture entirely supports the notion your body is a commodity. I mean, everybody is selling themselves -- you know, you could argue in one way or another.
SMALLEY: Yes, and, I mean, we live in a world now where, you know, where five years ago there weren't Britney Spears and Christina Aguileras at age 16, so sexed up and, you know, by the time they're 18, they're over as a pop culture icon. It 's really starting to have an effect on our young people.
COOPER: You also see -- I mean, you know, I'm not a big one to bash, like, music videos and what the kids are listening to, but there is this sort of this glorification of pimp culture in a lot of music and even on television.
SMALLEY: Interestingly, that's a huge factor as well. Right now, the No. 1 single or one of the top singles in the country is the 50 Cent "P.I.M.P" Snoop Dogg is also in that video. I mean, kids love these guys.
COOPER: Right, and Snoop Dogg has "Doggyfizzle Televizzle" or whatever it is.
SMALLEY: Yes. I mean, he's huge and they really are, you know, presenting this friendly, cool, glamorous face to pimping.
COOPER: Right. It's a lot of pimp this and ho this and...
SMALLEY: Right. And a big factor in this increase is that the pimps have gotten younger. Therefore, it's easier for them to recruit young women.
COOPER: Well also, they're recruiting in the Mall of America. I mean, it's not as if this is, in some far flung place. It was fascinating in your article about, you know, pimps running around the Mall of America.
SMALLEY: And other malls. I mean, not to just single them out. But yes, the Mall of America and plenty other malls. Malls are a prime place because you have kids hanging out, socializing, their guards are down and they're looking to meet people.
But pimps even have recruited children from schools. When you have 17-year-old boys who become pimps, it's easy for them to target their peers.
COOPER: And how do -- I mean, do -- you know, the young girls you talk to, do they get out of it? I mean, is there a way out?
SMALLEY: There is a variety of stories and some get out, some don't. There are a lot of social services to help people get out. The FBI and the Justice Department are pouring a lot of money into this right now, trying to find ways to solve the problem. So there is some hope on the horizon Luckily, law enforcement is paying attention.
COOPER: It is just -- I mean, it's an amazing trend. It's an amazing article. It's an amazing article.
Suzanne Smalley, thanks very much. SMALLEY: Thank you.
COOPER: All right.
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