In Search of Love: Teens Lured Into Sex Trade


Roberts said she spent her life savings trying to find her daughter and rescue her from the streets and from her pimp.

But her daughter, Roberts said, was afraid to leave. Her pimp once handcuffed her to a steering wheel of a car while he disappeared into a house, Roberts said her daughter told her. The pimp returned covered in blood, changed his shirt, and they went out to eat.

"She thinks he killed someone," Roberts said.

It is this fear that routinely keeps girls on the stroll.

Katie obediently worked the strip clubs by day and the track by night. At just 13 years old, she often would get picked up by johns within minutes of walking "the track."

She said she lived with J and lived by his rules. Other girls would come and go, she said. She remembers one in particular who was about the same age as she was.

"He bought her," she told ABC News.

Pimp Tells Teen, 'There is No God Where You Live'

That girl would find a way to escape, and Katie said she dreamed of doing the same.

"I just prayed," she said. "I was, like, crying and then he came out and he was like, 'What are you doing?' and I said, 'Praying.' And he said, 'Didn't I tell you there is no God where you live?'"

Michelle Alston knows that desperation first hand. She said her mother was prostitute, and at age 13, she decided to follow in her footsteps.

"When you go out there you risk getting robbed, raped, beat,'' she said. "You're getting in a car with someone you don't know. You risk that. ... Do I think it's worth it? No, but at the time it's all I knew."

Even though she was only 13 when she started, Alston said that sometimes she would have to lie about her age, when the john wanted someone younger.

"That's what they liked,'' she said.

When she was 14, Alston was introduced to the Internet and decided to go into business for herself.

"I would post online, Craigslist, City Vibe, Arrows Guide,'' she said. More than a dozen girls worked for her, she said, and she would post pictures of other girls, along with information about them, their fee and a phone number.

At 17, she was arrested and charged with "compelling and promoting prostitution."

She was a teenaged female pimp.

"I don't like that term,'' she told ABC, saying that she preferred to think of herself as a "financial advisor."

"I'd advise them to put their finances in my hands," she said.

Alston served three years in prison. She was pregnant when she began her sentence and gave birth in prison to a baby girl.

Helping women and girls to escape prostitution is fraught with challenges, experts say. For one, they are often treated as criminals, though they are just children and many have been forced into sex work.

"They might say to you, 'I've lived through more than most 40 year olds,' but then they say 'Oh, and I really love Justin Bieber,'" said Esther Nelson, a victims' advocate in Portland.

Nelson said she now sees girls forced into prostitution who are coming from and going to all parts of the country -- Atlanta, Hawaii, Chicago, New Orleans.

The city of Portland is home to more than 100 strip clubs and massage parlors, making it, per capita, the largest legal commercial sex industry in the nation.

"We have a very vibrant sex industry that is considered legitimate," she said. "And when you have that, you find the exploitation of children, because the sex industry is built on the exploitation of innocent people."

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