News 11 Investigative Report: Kids for Sale, Part III
Theresa Spears says she would never return to the life of a prostitute.
This is the third story in a series of three on teen prostitution, reported by News 11's Shelley Brown. Be sure to read Part I and Part II -- and to watch the videos. Find them in the Big Red Box.
"I don't never ever want to go back to that game," says Theresa Spears about her life of prostitution.
"We chose to do it, and we made those bad decisions, but give us a way out. Give us some hope," says Leeann, also a teen prostitution survivor.
Second Chance, a non-profit group, is now working with both women. As young girls, they were trafficked and used illegally for sex.
Though a lot of young girls aren't getting the chance to turn their lives around, people who are helping them are convinced the situation is improving.
"I'm not going to say we've completely cleaned it up, but it's 95 percent better than it was," claims Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer, who is well-aware that much of the teen prostitution business is transacted at truck stops.
If the girls are rescued, however, they're often arrested and put in detention for their own safety. Not everyone agrees this is the proper policy.
"We should never re-victimize the victim by treating them as a criminal because what that does is tell kids, 'Yes, indeed, it was your fault that you were manipulated and trafficked,'" says Dr. Celia Williamson, a University of Toledo associate professor of social work.
Williamson says the system isn't working. "We need a safe house in this part of the country where kids can go, safely recover, receive trauma treatment by qualified professionals until they can slowly be integrated into their community."
In fact, Second Chance has been given a home in Toledo but can't open the doors because they don't have the money to operate it.
The best scenario is to help prevent girls from falling into the hands of pimps. Williamson says parents should look for signs of vulnerability in their teens -- and ask questions.
"The more we stay ignorant, the more that our community will remain a hub for traffickers to come in and do what they want with our children because we don't know what to look for," Williamson says.