I found this really excellent article which is about the disappearance of Kelsey Collins in 2009, but also about teen prostitution in general. Kelsey was 18 when she went missing and had been involved in prostitution for several years. She had agreed to testify against her pimp, and did appear before a federal grand jury, but she disappeared afterward and was unavailable to testify at the actual trial. They had to drop the charges against the man for lack of evidence, because Kelsey wasn’t there. There’s strong suspicion that she was killed because of her testimony.
I feel very sorry for that poor girl and her family. It sounds like her mother tried to do right by her and tried to protect her, but there’s only so much you can do. Especially when you’re a single parent. Especially when your kid gets into their teens and you can’t watch them 24/7 anymore. Especially when you don’t have the money to pay for some fancy residential treatment center far away, or even for regular counseling sessions.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Tricks by Ellen Hopkins is an excellent novel-in-verse about teen prostitution. Each of the five teenagers (three girls, two boys) in the story became a prostitute through a different series of events. One character’s story was very much like Kelsey’s. The girl, Whitney, was fifteen years old. She was pretty and popular and came from a wealthy family, but she felt neglected and unloved by her parents, who seemed to favor her sister. Her boyfriend had just dumped her and bad-mouthed her to everyone, and she was hurt and humiliated. Then she met what seemed to be the greatest guy in the world and fell head over heels in love with him, and within weeks he had her turning tricks in Las Vegas. He was, of course, a pimp, and regularly scouted malls and other hang-outs looking for more Whitneys to sink his teeth into. I think, by making Whitney white and from a privileged background, Ellen Hopkins was trying to show that what happened to her could happen to anyone, not just minorities or teens from poor families.
I really hope Kelsey is alive out there somewhere. Maybe in a city far away. Maybe she doesn’t even realize people are looking for her. But it seems unlikely to me.