NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The average age of entry into prostitution is 13 years old; and the demand for even younger girls continues to increase in the United States. One rehabilitation program in Phoenix, Arizona is opening its doors to children forced into prostitution and it could be a model for North Texas.
Carolyn Jones, of Phoenix, knows how easily little girls can be lured into prostitution. She was a 15 when a man offered her $100 to go to a hotel with him.
Jennifer Testdorf was 18-years-old when a pimp offered her a dream trip. The mother of three is 26 now and shares the scars from her years of prostitution. “It takes so much of you,” explained a tearful Testdorf. “On September 23, I’ll be four years out of the lifestyle and I’m still working on respecting myself and my self-esteem, and figuring out who I am.”
Jones and Testdorf know first-hand that it is nearly impossible for an adult woman to escape a life of prostitution without help. So how is a 9 or 10-year-old girl going to walk away from a life of sex slavery? Maybe with the help of organizations like Streetlight PHX.
CBS 11 News traveled to Phoenix to tour Streetlight’s safe house campus, which just opened at the end of January 2011. The five-acre facility can hold up to 48 residents in its’ six cottages, each consisting of five bedrooms and two baths.
The campus also has a community life center, a fully accredited online school and feels more like a neighborhood, than a detention center.
The “secret city” of sorts is a rehabilitation facility for girls under 18 years old that have been rescued from sex slavery. Purchased in January 2009, the facility was completely paid for with private donations and support from local churches.
Once the campus is running at full capacity, Director of Operations Jamie Throne says Streetlight Phoenix plans to expand and North Texas could be next.
“Our long term goal would be eventually, whether in a year or five years, that Streetlight would be open in different cities around the nation,” said Throne. “Our goal is to multiply if you will and provide hope for cities like DFW; where there’s not an aftercare facility doing a lot right now there.”
Streetlight PHX is also helping Jones in a different way. As a volunteer, Jones plans to use her painful past to pull other child victims to freedom. “You gotta tear down and build over,” she explained. “And you gotta tear ‘em down with love and patience.”
The once victims now have love, patience and a protected place to live. Streetlight is a place where those robbed of their childhood get a second chance to be kids again.