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Child Prostitution And Child Sex Rings

source: Michael C. Irving, PhD

Sex rings and child prostitution involves power structures which actively recruit vulnerable children and youth.

Children used in sex rings are often subjected to terribly cruel and sadistic physical abuse in addition to sexual abuse. There is profound trauma associated with being used in child prostitution and child sex rings.

The impact of the abuse can be life-long, often resulting in emotional and physical problems as well as behavioural problems such: as prostitution, street youth, crime and homelessness.

Survivors often lose a sense of personal power and have difficulty making good, choices as adults.

For the survivor who was abused as a child by a group of adults there is no safe place. People “out there” do not offer safety and protection; survivors always feel isolated, powerless, helpless.

The survivor’s adult body carries significant internal stress as a result of repeated early abuse. The high degree of stress causes an inordinate amount of physical and medical problems for survivors.

Memories of profound abuse can be recovered inside and outside of therapy.

Child prostitution and child sex rings exist in all countries and in all the major cities in North America. Even in some smaller communities there can be highly active and organized child sex rings.

Discussion – Child Prostitution and Child Sex Rings
Identification/Refinement of Key Themes:

  1. A lack of public awareness, education and outreach.
  2. Myths about sexual abuse, sex rings and a connection to prostitution.
  3. Impact on an individual’s life – the survivor’s perspective.
  4. Why is society in denial, and how is this accomplished?
  5. How do pedophiles maintain their groups. How can they be identified? How to they propagate these activities?

Public Messages:

  1. The reality of child sex rings and prostitution:
    • Child sex rings and prostitution happens to children/individuals who are vulnerable, perhaps related to institutions as clients.
    • Individuals from abusive situations are more likely to become involved in sex rings or prostitution than those who are not.
    • When children are soliciting, there is no choice. Even when adults are soliciting, there are no choices.
  2. Impact of abuse:
    • There is a life-long impact resulting in internal (emotional, physical) and external (behavioural) problems.
    • Dissociative disorder is real. Memory loss from trauma is real and can be recovered both outside and inside of therapy.
    • Denial exists on the part of the abused and abuser.
  3. Myths about the impact of abuse:
    • Survivors have no sense of personal power, and are not capable of functioning as an adult and making good choices.
    • Survivors are perceived as unable to function, and allowances are made for their dysfunction instead of a search for the cause of such dysfunction.
  4. Impact
    • How recovered memories affect an individual’s life and life choices.
    • Sense of predetermined “fate” to continue in an abusive/abused capacity.
    • Memories played out in symbolic forms such as disease, abuse of others or choice of an abuser as a partner, alcoholic or drug addiction, life long impact.
    • Suicidal thoughts tend to be more common among survivors.
    • Impact of sex rings/prostitution on survivors: a complete sense of isolation; the message to the abused child is that society itself is responsible/corrupt; there is no “out there”, no safe place, no rescuer.

Why is society in denial, and how is this accomplished?

  • Society is associated with the government/media.
  • There is profit in denial. Abusers have a vested interest in denial and comfort.
  • Comfort, vested interest and both conscious and unconscious guilt.
  • Those who have not experienced this type of trauma have difficulty in understanding higher pain.
  • Often those who attack survivors are often in denial about abusers and abuse.
  • There are safety issues related to a lack of education on this topic.


There is a lack of public awareness of sex rings. There are many myths and a lack of perspective on the part of the public.

Prostitution and its connections to child abuse are unclear. The myth of prostitution is that they “do it because they love it”. Society is in denial – offers closure without examining the underlying issues behind prostitution. There is a lack of education around the issue of prostitution/abuse in the school system at every level.

The myth of pedophilia and child prostitution is that “young boys choose to participate.” How do pedophiles organize and sustain their activities? Does the anonymity of the internet propagate these activities? Is a child sex ring a child used by a number of abusers? This is worse than the abuse of a child by a caregiver, because no bond is formed. The child is totally isolated. His or her abuser has no power within the group. Survivors often develop strong defenses to cope, and may have very high pain thresholds. When the abuse occurs outside the family environs, the memories are often more difficult to access.

Memories may be triggered by specific words. There is often a lack of acknowledgement of the abuse by the abuser. A defense mechanism develops – the child is “special”. The photographic aspect of this type of abuse can encourage exhibitionistic behaviour.

The connection between prostitution and abuse is so obvious. Why is the public surprised by this? Survivors are vulnerable and often prone to being “seduced” into pornography and prostitution. Survivors also often feel that they are “fated” to continue in an abused capacity.

Myth of Suppression:

People think that it is possible to bury memories without affecting the individual concerned. It is easier to blame the victim than the abuser. The survivor becomes “objectified” and develops a strong sense of denial as a coping mechanism. This is the reason behind the denial of this type of abuse by society. People are more concerned about protecting their own comfort level than protecting the comfort levels of children. People do not want to confront the issues. “This type of thing doesn’t happen in Canada.” Social service agencies, law enforcement staff and others working in this field become desensitized, because the truth is so horrific. As well, the male identity in our culture encourages suppression of these issues, and the majority of institutions tend to be “male centred” in terms of their operational framework.

The Maple Leaf Gardens issue did generate a public outcry. However, this was bothersome, because of the media identification with the “hockey icon” image as a vehicle to address abuse issues. This disregards other survivors who are not associated with a “celebrity association”. There are also issues associated with validation and celebrity endorsement. Another difficulty is presented by the incorrect association of abuse with lower economic class structures. The message is most often dependent upon the messenger for clarity and accuracy.

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