“There is a great looking chicken new to me on the swim team … he looks to be 14. Tall but built pretty well in his chest, and blonde and great smile. I fantasized about his asking me to help him get used to the jacuzzi naked.”
Do you find this shocking and unbelievable?
I do not. At the age of 17, I became an under-age prostitute: a chicken. One of my clients was a judge. The Judge paid me $500 (and this was 1974 money) to verbally and physically abuse him. As soon as I laid eyes on him I felt mean, hateful, loathing. I imagined him up on the bench looking down at me righteously. At the same time I felt sorry for him, and I wondered: Who pumped their poison into this guy? At that moment I vowed I’d never work again. Afterwards I went and bought a day-old birthday cake and ate until I passed out.
Judge Kline has been charged with six counts of possessing child pornography, (including over 100 images of child pornography and a commercial videotape in his home) and child molestation.
Internet pedophilia is rampant. Children are bought and sold, imported and exported like slaves all over the world.
From the cover of Newsweek, to the front pages of the New York Times, to 48 Hours TV news magazine, there have been countless stories detailing how priests have been abusing children for decades all over America.
I am not shocked. I am not in disbelief. Sadly I’ve seen it too many times. And not in the bad part of town. In the nice neighborhoods where I grew up. We must accept the fact that child sexual exploitation is not something that just happens in the ghetto, or in Mexico, or Bangkok. It’s happening on your block. In your nice neighborhood. On your block.
America has turned a blind eye to the problem of adults in positions of power and privilege sexually victimizing children for too long.
So what is to be done?
Stop treating prostituted kids as criminals. When a youth is arrested for prostitution, the question inevitably asked is, “Did the child agree to the act?” This is the equivalent of asking an assaulted child if they agreed to being beaten. Almost all of these kids have been subjected to terrible trauma, and must be given the psychological, emotional, and physical help they need, as well as the skills required to move on.
Stop passing kids from agency to agency to hospital to foster home, and allow kids to have a say in what happens to them when they’re rescued from sexual exploitation. And make sure they have a safe place to go.
Make more safe houses available for kids that are actually SAFE, where survivors can get medical, psychological to help them re-integrate into society.
Prosecute pimps and johns who abuse kids with vigorous laws and enforcement, and multiple charging (statutory rape, child endangerment, and RICO statute) abusers. 4) Create a Child Protection Czar, who would coordinate and facilitate organizations on a local and national level.
Spread public information for kids, parents and educators on how to talk about this subject: not as sex education, but as violence prevention.
Establish an 800 number that kids can call day or night that will refer them to a local agency where they can get the help they need.
Form a group of survivors who can help set policy, and talk all over the country in schools and churches and community centers.
The laws have to be stiffer, and their enforcement much more vigorous.
Parents must calmly and rationally tell their children that there are a few adults who are sick on the inside, and not on the outside. And this grown-up might not be a stranger. It might be someone you know. And the sickness makes them want to hurt boys and girls. No matter what any adult says, boys and girls don’t have to do anything they’re not comfortable with, and if anyone tries to make them, they need to tell their mom and their dad and their teacher.
We want our heroes and villains in clean discreet categories. We want our heroes to be pillars of society. We want our sexual villains to be fringe freaks, grotesque and easily recognizable. But the fact is that predators are hungry for our children in all walks of life. Sexual predators aren’t all pockmarked men in stained raincoats. Sometimes they’re gardeners, priests, uncles, and yes, even judges.
I hid the fact that I had been a prostitute for many years, and holding all those secrets and all that trauma nearly killed me. I went from the penthouse to the outhouse on a slow painful ride down the razor’s edge. Part of the reason I couldn’t tell anyone was that I grew up in a British household where one’s upper lip was always stiff, and I could not ask for the help I needed. But part of it is a terrible prejudice that exists in our culture against kids who’ve been prostituted. I felt my identity had been spoiled, that I was worthless and undeserving of love and help. I wrote a book about my life as a young chicken, and when my book came out, I “came out” as an ex-prostitute. I immediately felt the effects of having my identity spoiled. Many of my immediate family no longer speak to me. I am no longer invited to family gatherings. One of my best friends told me point blank it was my fault that I was raped. Hate the crime, not the victim.
If I could talk to Ronald C. Kline, this is what I’d like to say: “I was hired as a 17 year old to abuse a judge, and it left deep scars in me which took years and years to heal. Please, I beg you to get some help. Find someone who can assist you to express your desires appropriately. Innocence is the most precious thing in the world. Once it’s gone, you can never get it back.”
David Henry Sterry is the author of Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent 10 Year Anniversary published by Soft Skull