Organizations involved in helping rescue teens from prostitution and human trafficking are praising the announcement Wednesday that the state's court system is joining that fight. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
She's a young woman, but Kimberly has been through a lot. When she was in junior high school, she was trapped in a life of selling sex.
"I was introduced to commercial sexual exploitation by a friend," she said. "I had a couple of dates with guys, and I also had a boyfriend, which turned into my pimp."
Although she is understandably hiding her identity, she does want to speak up to help others by telling her story of bad choices, running away and abuse.
A: There was nothing I could do. I didn't have no options.
Q: Because if you said no, what would happen?
A: I would be beat, or I would have to go out there and work the whole night or the whole morning.
Q: And how old were you at that point?
This week, the state's top judge announced the Human Trafficking Intervention Initiative, a statewide program that will duplicate what community courts in Manhattan and Queens currently do, and that's strive to dismiss charges against prostitutes, and offer them counseling and a way out, looking at them as victims of sex trafficking and not criminals.
Kimberly knows what it feels like to be treated like a criminal.
Q: How old were you [when you first got arrested]?
A: Fifteen. My first one, yeah, I was 15.
With family help, she turned to the Jewish Child Care Association. Its gateway program rescues exploited and trafficked teens. The program's director, Janmarie Brown, said that the court initiative will help save teens from years of abuse.
"You need to understand that nobody wakes up and says, 'This is what I want to do. I want to engage in sexual exploitation.' That is not something that they want to do," Brown said. "And they're children. They are youth."
The gateway's youngest participant is 10 years old.
"There was a guy that approached her on the street and asked her if she wanted something to eat," Brown said. "They got something to eat, and from there, he took her captive and forced her to engage in sexual exploitation with himself and family members."
She was eventually saved, and so was Kim. The hope is that the court's initiative will save others, too.