Canada

Child prostitution widespread: experts

The shocking case of an 11-year-old girl rescued from the streets of Vancouver has put a spotlight on the problem of child prostitution. And experts say it's much more widespread than most think.

Police found the girl on east Vancouver's notorious "kiddie stroll" on Monday. She had been on the street for four days, after being abducted, beaten and drugged.

At the time, police said they believed she was the youngest person ever found working as a street prostitute.

But social workers say sadly that's not true. Raven Bowen, who works with street kids in Vancouver, says she has seen children younger than 11 being sold for sex.

"The exceptional part about it is that the girl was caught," Bowen says.

Bill Thibodeau, an outreach worker in Saskatoon, agrees. He says he's personally seen a 10-year-old working on the street.

"My outreach staff have dealt with some seven-, eight-, nine-year-olds in their daily work," he added.

Experts say the average age of entry into prostitution is 14. And they say Vancouver has about 500 street prostitutes under the age of 17.

Bowen says there are 10 times as many girls being forced to work behind closed doors.

"You can't have children standing on the corner because they will be spotted immediately. So what pimps and recruiters do is keep them off-street," says Bowen.

The 11-year-old girl is now back in Portland, Oregon, where she lives in a foster home.

Charged with several offences including abduction, living off the avails of prostitution, sexual interference and assault are Jabari McCrory, David Martin Walker and Melenda Mae Carter. They are all American citizens in their 20s and they all have criminal records.

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