We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Children and Prostitution

Child prostitution is another difficult result of child abuse, but it needs to be discussed. General psychological and emotional problems, housing instability, substance abuse, educational and vocational failure, and major problems at home have all been cited as common precipitating factors in the lives of prostituted children. The homes children run away from are often marked by emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, and regular violence between the parents.

Sexual abuse has a significant impact on the probability that a runaway will become involved in prostitution. Early childhood abuse or neglect is a strong predictor of prostitution for girls, although it does not seem to have the same impact on boys.[1] The sexual exploitation of children, combined with other family tensions or emotional deficiencies, increases the probability that an adolescent runaway will engage in prostitution.

Runaway and homeless adolescents seek to replace the love and affection they lost or never received from their families. Their own feelings of inferiority and insecurity often lead to development of a delinquent orientation.

Girls assume various aliases to attract new customers. This leads them to use distancing and dissociative behaviors as a survival technique. Separated from friends, family, home, and “legitimate” society, they distance themselves from the prostitution act in the way many victims of incest report dissociating from abuse.

A background of severe family conflict, rejection, and abuse makes comprehensive health services a necessity for youth on the street. Treatment efforts should focus on runaway prevention and provision of stable environmental and emotional supports that encourage development of life skills and the building of self-confidence. This is an enormous problem and another sad outcome of children being abused at home.


[1] “Prostitution of Children and Child-Sex Tourism: An Analysis of Domestic and International Responses,” National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, April 1999.

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