Friday, August 16, 2013

Children Entrapped Into Prostitution & Pornography: Understanding the Problem

[Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is author Joe Haggerty, who served as a police officer and detective with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department for over 35 years. His area of expertise is investigations into the sexual exploitation of children, specifically those children victimized by criminals trafficking in prostitution and pornography. He also served as a senior investigator for the U.S. Attorney General's Commission on Pornography. He authored a novel titled SHAME: The Story Of A Pimp.]

By  Joe Haggerty
After spending 27 years on the streets of Washington, D.C. primarily investigating the sexual exploitation of children in prostitution and pornography and interviewing over 5,000 prostitutes and hundreds of pimps, I found the following to be the most common methods used by pimps to keep their victims on the street.
Understand that the primary targets of the pimps are young women who are runaways or throwaways.  I estimate that 85-90% of the women on the street were recruited before their 18th birthday. The youngest I personally encountered was 12, but I know of younger victims.

Love and security is probably the most powerful hold the pimp tries to establish.  Frequently these young women have lacked attention or were sexually or physically abused by a family member or a trusted friend of the family.  Pimps will shower their victim with attention, providing her the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

Sexual advances will be limited to the victim’s consent, although I’ve known pimps who set up their victim to be raped and he comes to her rescue.  He creates a total dependence upon him, not usually with drugs, although drugs may be used as part of the seduction process.  He pays for everything—rent, clothes, food, lawyer and female necessities.  He creates structure in her life—when to get up, how much money she is supposed to earn a night (quota), what clothes she wears, time limits with tricks/johns/customers, the use of condoms and when she can come off the street each night.

Understand she turns over one hundred percent of the money she makes to the pimp and she works the street everyday even during her period or pregnancy. She is required to follow specific rules for which a violation will result in a beating. This creates a false sense of security and the mistaken belief that she is loved. To a pimplove is money.

Threats and violence are methods used by more physical pimps.  It may have been threats or violence by the pimp that forced her on the street in the first place.  After a month, more or less, she has lost all self-respect.  Conservatively speaking, she has had sex with 120 different men.  At some point the pimp’s threats against her fall on deaf ears, but in his initial seduction process he learned who had been the most significant person in her life.  He knows where she lived previously.  His threats of violence are now directed toward that significant person whether it is a family member or a close friend.  She would now be responsible for the well-being of a person she cared about.  If she actually had a child of her own, the pimp has the greatest leverage to keep her on the street and frequently he controls who takes care of the child. The Stockholm Syndrome and the Battered Wife Syndrome are common in these situations.

I cannot tell you how many times I heard a young women justify her life in prostitution by saying she was only going to work for a couple of years.  She believes at the end of that time period her man will marry her and they will settle down to a conventional life.  Many of these women still believe in the American dream, but seldom achieve it.
Although a pimp may have more than one victim on the street, in their world these victims are considered his wives.  The women will refer to each other as wife-in-laws. In that respect if a women refers to another woman as her wife-in-law then you know they work for the same pimp.  Some women successfully leave the street and their pimp.  They either go to jail and the pimp abandons them, they marry a trick or they find Jesus.  Unfortunately, many become drug addicts or alcoholics, are murdered or commit suicide.  Right now there are at least 12 states investigating serial killers whose primary victims are prostitutes.

In my book, Shame: The Story of a Pimp, which is fiction, but based on a number of cases I was involved in, you’ll learn what the street is really like.  You’ll learn how the pimps rule the street, how they will sell their victims to other pimps.  Like the pimps I described above, Shame preys on young women who he uses and abuses.  Falling in love is a huge taboo for a pimp, but Shame does and is betrayed.  This drives him to murder and eventually to a court of law. A Detroit policewoman and a D.C. Vice Detective gather enough evidence to have Shame arrested, but the trial doesn’t end favorably.  Street justice is sometimes the best justice and Shame is faced with the wrongs of his past.
I was a Metropolitan Police officer in Washington, D.C. for 35 years.  From 1973 to 1997 I worked as a vice detective, primarily doing investigations of the sexual exploitation of children in prostitution and pornography. In the mid 80’s, I was selected to be a senior investigator for the U. S. Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography and wrote a portion of the final report. 

I worked with the DC homicide squad and homicide detectives from Arlington, Virginia and the Virginia State Police in a series of prostitute homicides that took place in 1989-90.  From 1998 until 2005 I was an in-service training instructor at the department’s academy. I was the co-founder of a grassroots organization initially dedicated to rescuing kids from the prostitution streets and was chosen by Children of the Night in California as one of the top ten police officers in the country in rescuing child victims of prostitution. 

I have a published novel, Shame: The Story of a Pimp, which tells the fictional story of a pimp from birth to death.  Although I used real incidents from several of my cases, I changed names, locations and circumstances. I refused to write a non-fiction novel about the sexual exploitation of children as I felt it would further exploit them.  However, I tried to portray the way the prostitution streets really are and the violent and exploitive nature of pimps.  I have been married 33 years, have six children and 11 grandchildren.  Email:  


  1. A special thanks to Joe Haggerty for his work in this area of criminal investigations: Victims deprived of their innocents like this, even their very lives. Thanks for joining us today, Joe. Readers: Anyone with further questions can add them here in the comments section. Joe will be checking back from time to time.

  2. Thanks Mark for the opportunity to talk about these victims and the vultures that prey on them. Pimps are the biggest child exploiters in the world. So your readers know, Children of the Night (COTN) is without a doubt the best program in the country for kids rescued from the prostitution streets. Just go to their website. They survive on private donations and take no government money. Sent my book, SHAME, to the director and founder of COTN, Dr. Lois Lee, for her to review. She gave it one of the kids (15 yr old) to read. The kid sent me a letter saying he identified with so much in the book and thought it was great. I wanted to show what the street is really like and this young women told me I did.
    I'm gratified that there are more prosecutions of these low-lifes and more young women being recognized as victims.
    Mark, thanks again and you are the first to know that I now have a website, If anyone should comment on this article, I hope the would visit my website and tell me what they think.

  3. Thanks for joining us, Joe. And thanks for the work you did to protect these children.

  4. Hi Joe...glad to see an old friend on the blog with Mark. Hope you get some good comments on your article, and the best of luck with "Shame."

    Pete Klismet
    Author of "FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil"