Thursday, September 16, 2010

7977: Poor Pimps.

From The Chicago Tribune…

In DePaul study of Chicago pimps, most were abused as children

By Duaa Eldeib, Tribune reporter

Most of the two dozen former pimps and madams questioned by DePaul University researchers for a study on Chicago’s sex trade had suffered both physical and sexual abuse as children.

The study, “From Victims to Victimizers: Interviews with 25 ex-pimps in Chicago,” by researcher Jody Raphael and Brenda Myers-Powell, a former longtime prostitute, found a staggering 88 percent of those surveyed suffered physical abuse growing up, while 76 percent endured sexual abuse. In many cases, the abuse forced them to leave home early and turn to pimping to survive.

The majority also traded sex for money before becoming pimps, Raphael said. Of the 25 former pimps interviewed, seven were women, nearly all of whom had been victims of violence and prostitution.

Myers-Powell, who spent more than 20 years on the street, works as peer coordinator for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s prostitution intervention team and does advocacy work through the Dreamcatcher Foundation, which helps victims of prostitution. For the study, she spent about two hours interviewing each former pimp. Each was paid $250.

Raphael, a research fellow at the DePaul University College of Law, developed a 91-question survey for the study. She and Myers-Powell work with End Demand Illinois, a coalition aimed at ending prostitution and sex trafficking.

The former pimps reported having made between $150,000 and $500,000 a year. Many of them said they felt pimping was less risky than dealing drugs or committing a felony.

A rising awareness of international sex trafficking in recent years has shed light on pimping in Chicago, Raphael said.

“We have the same phenomenon — local girls are being pimped and trafficked in the same way, which is what we’re beginning to understand now,” she said.

More than half the pimps said they paid law enforcement in order to survive in the business, as well as bellmen, hotel clerks and bartenders for referring customers, according to the study.

“The fact is their business survives on the tolerance of all these other entities,” Raphael said. “They’re saying there’s no end of customers. They’re falling off the trees.”

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