The Feminist Theory of Delinquency: Juvenile Prostitution
The specific juvenile crime of prostitution correlates primarily with the female gender and is perpetuated in society by the status as young women. Many juvenile females are victimized first, and then become involved in prostitution. This specific juvenile crime is on the rise due to factors involving human trafficking and a clientele with a demand for young females. This is noted by Larry Gaines in his book titled Policing in America “Prostitution is a compelling social problem because the number of underage people engaged in prostitution. Many female prostitutes are underage, and there is a significant clientele that prefers underage prostitutes. Prostitutes often have long histories of sexual and physical abuse by family members often beginning at the age of 10 or 12” (Gaines, 253).
Many young female children are forced in to the sex trade by adults. There is debate in Texas that revolves around the problem created by the blanket adoption of the Texas Penal Codes into juvenile law. This blanket adoption creates a conflict with the matter of fact on sexual consent needed to prove up the facts of prostitution. This issue became a Supreme Court Case that will be looked at in further detail. The adjudication of a 13 year old for prostitution was overruled and remanded due to this double standard that is created by law.
Consent is in question due to the fact that a child cannot consent to sex, prostitution requires consent to be an actor in the crime. If a juvenile cannot consent to sex – how can they be guilty of a consensual sex act for trade? These are not crimes, they are victimizations. It is a crime based on “Legal Fiction”. The other party to the crime is the actual perpetrator and should be charged with child endangerment, abuse and be registered as a sexual predator. The current treatment of juvenile females as the criminal while protecting the clientele only ensures this market will continue to grow. The clientele may think twice if they knew they would become a registered sex offender. This creation of second thought may indeed slow the sex trade and the number of female children becoming adjudicated for prostitution.
The society at large is under attack by the desecration of morals as the sex trade takes hold and the unidentified sex offenders continue to create the market demand for young children to be exploited. The laws do not go far enough into the causation of such crimes to identify at risk youth, or to seek out punitive or correctional results on the adult perpetrators of heinous crimes against children.
In re B.W. TSC case 08-1044 the Texas Supreme Court received jurisdiction over a case of a 13 year old female (B.W.) who was adjudicated for prostitution and was currently being held in corrections. In the opinion delivered by Justice O’Neill, in which Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice Hecht, Justice Medina, Justice Green, and Justice Guzman it is summarized to say the intent of the legislature was not to create a sex offender at the age of thirteen by the blanket adoption of the Texas penal codes into the Juvenile Justice System. The adjudication of a thirteen year old child for prostitution causes the victimization of the child twice. One victimization by the child having to do the act, the other victimization for the lack of protection given to her by the prosecution of her – to the end of her adjudication (Supreme.courts.state.tx.us/, 2009).
The adjudication of B.W. creates a stigma that will follow her for the rest of her life and will prove fact to the Labeling Theory. She, B.W., will be known in future by parents, teachers and law enforcement as a prostitute. This negative cultural tagging will affect every aspect of her life including simple decisions, motherhood and employment abilities. This adjudication is inherently oppressive and destructive to the future hopes of a life ability to participate in the defended right to the pursuit of happiness granted the American citizen.
The adults, all of them, who used her services in any way as she earned her money should be identified and convicted of sexual assault on a minor child and hence be known as a registered sex offender. The rape of any other child of the age of 13 years would require the same action. Is it of any consequence that B.W. has received the label? She is in fact still a child and any person who assaulted her should be sought out and convicted. The failure in this case is in the confusion of law enforcements job description, the confusion of what is right caused by the labeling of a child – who was at one point an innocent child.
Police are more likely to arrest a female if she violates traditional role expectations for females, such as failing to obey parents, being sexually promiscuous, or running away from home (Bartollas, 96). The blinders of society to the female delinquent must be examined to discern where the justice lie in the crime B.W. is convicted of. In the growing use of children as sexual objects in the sex trade it must become clearly defined that no matter the assumptions of law enforcement about the child the Penal code violation lies with the adult sexual abuser.
The Feminist Theory of Delinquency argues “that girl’s victimization and the relationship between that experience and girls crime have often been ignored” (Bartollas, 81). This theory indicates that there is a direct causative result in crime due to the abuse of a female child. The female child that is delinquent is often acting in result of the crime perpetuated upon her. The causative factor of the result is more often than not ignored and the female child seldom ever gets help with the initial trauma. Females in the Juvenile Justice System are composed of a substantial number of victims (Bartollas, 2008, p. 81).
The female child’s experience in life can lead to criminality. A majority of juvenile female prostitutes report becoming a runaway first. The prostitution is second to the first status offense. A majority of female juvenile delinquents report first being victimized. “Those who study female offending, as well as those who work with female offender, have discovered a substantial number are victims of both physical and sexual abuse” (Bartollas, 81). When the female juvenile becomes a runaway she becomes impoverished and is left with little choice but to exploit themselves (Bartollas, 81).
In a preventative measure, the female juvenile run-away offender should be given intense attention. There should be a home study and investigation as to the causative action behind the flight from home. The child needs to be removed from the home if there is indication of any abuse. This simple action can prevent the exposure to the “streets” that lead to teen prostitution. This would be a proactive stance in the prevention of creating child female victims. In the detainment or re-locating of a runaway, care should be given to the type of setting they are placed. Detention centers would be too harsh of an environment for the victimized youth and contribute to further victimization of the child (Moss). This justice system overreaction could yield a criminal adult released instead of a reformed adult.
While it is true that “The shift from the philosophy of rehabilitation to retribution has led to more juveniles at a younger age being tried as adults” (Samaha, 2011, p. 191), the cases of juveniles charged with prostitution should not be included in this increase. The juvenile female offender held on prostitution charges, under the age of 17, should have charges re-labeled to a status offense similar to run away. The female youth can be taught ways to earn for survival other than being exploited. The societal correction in the criminal activity is education. These female offenders should be given a way to provide for themselves, not as in a certificate - but as in a degree. While in detainment the female can use educational grants to gain at least an Associate’s Degree through online classes. In returning to society they will lose the stigma created by the offense with education. Then they can become a productive, working citizen- to pay taxes. Our society can benefit from the proper protection and treatment of these female children.
(2009, January 21). Retrieved September 19, 2011, from Supreme.courts.state.tx.us/: http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/ebriefs/08/08104401.pdf
Bartollas, C. M. (2008). Juvenile Justice in America (6th ed.). (V. Anthony, Ed.) Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, U.S.A.: Pearson Education Inc.
Gaines, L. (2008). Policing in America (6 ed.). Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A.: Matthew Bender and Company.
Moss, A. (n.d.). Prison Rape Elimnation Act:Implications for Women and Girls. Retrieved September 19, 2011, from CT Feature: http://www.wcl.american.edu/nic/resources/prea_implications_for_women_and_girls.pdf?rd=1
Samaha, J. (2011). Criminal Law (10th ed.). (C. Meier, Ed.) Belmont, CA, U.S.A.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.