Teen prostitutes, not even old enough to drive, walk the streets of our cities selling their bodies every night. They call it "the life," but what they're forced into is sexual slavery.
"I got sold," says Sara, who asked that ABC hide her face and change her name for this story. "Like I was an animal."
Mistreated, lonely and living in a foster home in a rough neighborhood, Sara was lured into "the life" by a man who claimed to love her. She was only 13.
"He told me things like no guy had ever told me," Sara says. "So I felt like a $100 million."
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 3 million American kids under age 18 are involved in prostitution and they're often targeted by sexual predators.
"There are sexual predators out there specifically looking for vulnerable kids so that they can sell them," says Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, in New York City, an advocacy group that provides services to sexually exploited girls from age 12 to 21.
The average age of a child when he or she is first sexually exploited is 11, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Even if the child is a somewhat willing participant, according to U.S. and international agreements, children can never consent to prostitution: it is always exploitation.
The cities with the highest incidence of child sexual exploitation, according to the FBI, are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington, D.C. As many as 40 percent of all forced prostitutes are juveniles, according to the FBI.
"There are girls that are literally kidnapped off the street [and] thrown into a car," Lloyd says. "There are pimps who pose as model agency scouts."
The promise of a glamorous modeling career is what Miya says enticed her to leave her job at a busy shopping mall with a couple who reportedly lured several girls into prostitution in the same manner.
"He asked if it would be out of place if he said I was pretty," Miya says. "It was a compliment. He said he was a model agent...looking for models in the area. It seemed interesting."
According to Miya she was moved from Arizona to California and forced into the brutal world of sexual exploitation.
"They move them to evade detection," says Ernie Allen, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in Alexandria, Va. "In many ways children in the 21st century have become a commodity for sale and marketing, primarily for sexual purposes."
Pimps are criminals, but often depicted in a glamorous way in movies like "Hustle and Flow," in music videos, and in national magazines.
For example, in the Dec. 16, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, rapper Snoop Dogg was featured on the cover with the headline, "At Home With America's Most Lovable Pimp."
"I think in the last couple years we've seen a real increase in the glorification of pimp culture," Lloyd says. "Girls growing up now, and boys too, are beginning to see this as cute and sexy or glamorous and not really understanding the realities of the sex industry."
Unfortunately, Sara learned the realities firsthand.