This was originally posted on the Girl Talk website but I wanted to share with the rest of you.
On October 23rd, Dr. Burns and I watched a powerful movie called Playground: the child sex trade in AMERICA presented by the Women's Fund. It touched upon many different topics relating to the United States' commercial sexual exploitation of children. Specifically, how American girls are lured into selling their bodies at early ages (the protagonist was 11 -years-old when she was first caught by Canadian authorities on a "kiddie trail"- where young girls this age are prostituting themselves on the streets). The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that when we think of prostitution of children- we tend to think that this occurs in other countries... other "less developed", "ignorant", "macho" countries- not ever in our country, let alone in Miami. But it does. Every single day.
Why ? Why would girls this young fall for the sweet talk of these pimps and fall for a lifetime of drug, physical, sexual abuses and the eternal subjugation to horrible, terrible acts by countless persons?
To me, it seems like the absence of a secure relationship with anyone early in their life can lead to a broken and underdeveloped sense of who they are. Yet, they spend the rest of their lives yearning for a connection that validates their existence no matter what the risk. Like one young woman who was interviewed stated, she was raped so many times by so many different people that she could go through anything in life. She had been there, done that to her. No experience in her life made her realize she was worthy of a connection with a human being that valued her essence as an individual. These children never having experienced any sense of unconditional love and acceptance are always searching for someone to make them feel worthy of real love, appreciation, and respect. And without help, they will experience the rest of their lives aimlessly searching for this with a misguided map of wrong turns and dead ends.
These children have mothers who were not mentally stable enough to provide a safe environment that provided the basic needs and a secure emotional connection. The young women interviewed in the movie described their complicated relationship with their mothers- the abuse they endured (one was subjected to her mother's drug abuse and sexual acts daily, was sexually abused by one of her mother's boyfriends, and had to save her two-year-old brother from being drowned in the bathtub by her aunt, another was burnt with cigarettes among other acts of cruelty) and their unending yearning to reunite with them no matter what the cost. The protagonist stated that the way to her mother's attention was to buy her drugs just so she could have a few moments of "closeness" with her mother. The other young woman risked her life by running away from her father's home after school to search for her mother- in fact she never did, instead she met a pimp who introduced her to a life of prostitution. Do I blame these mothers? No. Because I am sure that they must have gone through some terribly dehumanizing experiences themselves to subjugate their children to the hell that led them to truancy, prostitution, drug abuse, etc. They must not have thought very highly of themselves or never have had anyone truly believe in them as worthy of modeling a secure and loving relationship.
The movie touched upon other societal issues- how so little attention and funding is given to this enormous problem. Some organizations here in Miami are helping ameliorate and hopefully stop some of this problem by dealing with the individuals who participate in sexual acts with a child and by helping parents establish a secure attachment with their children. Some organizations here in Miami are helping mothers establish and re-establish healthy relationships with their children before its too late and before the cycle of perpetuating abuse continues across generations. Kristi House, for example, offers therapy, case coordination, and other services for children who have experienced any type of sexual abuse and or exploitation. They also offer training for professionals looking to improve their quality of care for children. There are sex offender treatment programs in Broward and Dade counties offering services of remediation and help for registered sex offenders.
As a psychologist, I believe my role is to help women believe in themselves as mothers capable of raising children to the best of their abilities with whatever available resources. My role in Girl Talk is to help girls become these women who believe in their potential to become great women. Who decide not to fall for the misguided advice of others for a quick thrill that can lead to a lifetime of pain. For these girls to one day become mothers who can be "good enough" and provide a secure relationship with their daughters and teach them to be strong, intelligent, independent thinkers.
Dr. Eva Benmeleh
I am a licensed clinical child psychologist in Miami . I hope you enjoy the site!
221 West Hallandale Beach Blvd., Suite 202
Hallandale, FL 33009