A Victimless Crime?

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Amidst the national uproar over the conduct of those entrusted with protecting our President, I have heard a lot of talk about prostitution being a “victimless” crime. Colombian prostitute Dania Londono Suarez has made the rounds of interviews. She comes across really well — attractive, sense of humor, intelligent. Enjoying the spotlight. An adult who made a lifestyle choice. The poster girl for legalized prostitution.

Let’s look closer. She is 24 years old. She talks about providing for her nine-year-old son. He was born when she was 15; likely pregnant at 14. If her story is like that of most prostitutes in Latin America, she began selling her body about the time she reached adolescence. UNICEF estimates that 35,000 Colombian children move into prostitution each year.

But prostitution is a victimless crime.

Victimless? When a culture endorses prostitution as a viable lifestyle, it establishes a context in which children are pushed into selling themselves at younger and younger ages. A few months ago, I told you the story of an 11-year-old girl from in Brazil. Philip and I had gotten to know Lucia, her mother and three siblings. They live in desperate conditions in one on the largest slums in South America. I will never forget the email I received from Philip as I was sitting at O’Hare Airport one afternoon. At the end of the rather long email, there was the chilling line: “When I got back, I found that Lucia was being prostituted.” I couldn’t believe it. Surely her mother would not force her into this. Could her mother’s occasional boyfriend be responsible? Had one of the brothel owners in the favela kidnapped her?

In fact, it was none of these. What happened to Lucia is deplorably common. Lucia is desperately poor. Like any little girl, she wants better things in life: nicer clothes, better food, perhaps some special attention, and to be told that she is pretty. Lucia is growing up in a cultural setting that places no stigma on prostitution, so she chose to trade the only thing she has: herself. In exchange for a new blouse or a good meal, she entered a lifestyle that will be ultimately and devastatingly destructive.

But prostitution is a victimless crime.

On my first trip to Brazil, I met a teenage girl named Gabriella. She had been a prostitute since age 11, spending three years on the streets before the juvenile authorities brought her to Hope. By that time, her spirit had been so crushed by sexual exploitation that she saw no way out: “I was born in the slum, I sold my body in the slum, and I will die in the slum.”

But prostitution is a victimless crime.


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