Juvenile Rights Attorney Calls for Protection of Sexually Exploited Children

Elana Roffman, a staff attorney in the Brooklyn office of the Juvenile Rights Practice, called for protection of sexually exploited children in a letter to The New York Times which was published January 11.


The New York Times
Letters to the Editor
Published: January 11, 2009

To the Editor:

Re “If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, Jan. 4): The sad fact is that the sex trade in America is made up of commercially exploited young people. According to a 2001 study from the University of Pennsylvania, each year there are 200,000 to 300,000 youths in the United States who are commercially sexually exploited or at risk of being exploited.

In New York City, the most frequent age of initiation into prostitution is 14 to 15 years old. These children not only are tortured by their pimps and johns, but also are punished by the juvenile justice systems while the pimps and johns often go unpunished.

The slavelike conditions of the commercially sexually exploited young people are an issue we need to deal with in our own communities. If anyone harbors doubts, see a recently released documentary, “Very Young Girls.” These children have the right to our protection, and this exploitation should not be tolerated by our government here or abroad.

Elana Roffman
Brooklyn, Jan. 5, 2009


The writer is a staff lawyer with the Legal Aid Society’s juvenile rights practice.