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VeryYoungGirlsPosterLast night I watched the movie “Very Young Girls,” which aired on Showtime last year. This documentary (which you can watch on your computer on Netflix instant) details the lives of teenage girls who are coerced in prostitution in NYC.  The documentary focuses on the organization GEMS, which provides safe housing and counseling for many of these girls. The documentary is incredibly sad, powerful, and informative, and it demonstrates exactly why these girls need to be rehabilitated instead of incarcerated.  Until the recent passage of the New York Safe Harbor Act, teenage girls who were arrested for prostitution were treated as adults and faced imprisonment. This is despite the fact that girls under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sex in the state of New York. The Safe Harbor Act creates a presumption that girls who are arrested for prostitution should be treated as the victims of coercion and sent to safe houses and rehabilitation facilities. What is especially sad about this documentary, however, is that despite the help that many of the girls receive, they often return to a life on the streets, not able to resist the coercive power of their pimps.  We spend a lot of time worrying about trafficked and exploited women in other countries, but this documentary really drives home the point that we need not look farther than a few blocks to find women desperately in need of help right here in the US.

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