Sex Work

14-Year-Old Arrested for Prostitution for Her Own Good, Say Indiana Cops

Police have been investigating the case for more than a month.

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Jhaymesisviphotography/Flickr

In Bloomington, Indiana, a 14-year-old girl was arrested Tuesday on prostitution charges after texting older men and offering sex for a fee.

A case of cops making a hasty arrest before having all the facts? Nope—detectives have been investigating the case for more than a month, reports the Indiana University student newspaper, in a story that I confirmed with the Bloomington Police Department (BPD). Police Captain Steve Kellams told the student paper that by charging the girl with prostitution, the "goal is to ensure that this teen gets all of the help available."

After being arrested Tuesday morning, she was charged in the juvenile system with misdemeanor prostitution, Kellams told me Wednesday morning. She was not placed in jail but will have to go in front of a judge. Whatever the outcome, he assures me, the state's juvenile justice system "is designed around treatment and not punishment." 

Bloomington detectives began looking into the case after a woman reported seeing texts from the girl, who had claimed to be 17, on her husband's phone. Kellams said it became clear investigating the teen's communications that she had offered to have sex for money with several individuals, communicating with them over Facebook and via text message. None of the men have been charged. 

Asked whether it was generally Bloomington police policy to arrest people selling sex no matter their age, Kellams told me their directive was to "just follow state law." 

Under federal and some state laws, teens selling sexual services are defined as "sex trafficking victims" whether they're working for/with anybody or not. This is problematic as it both inflates victim numbers and leads to the arrest of anyone tangentially connected with teen sex workers, because if they're the victims by default then someone—often a slightly older sex worker helping or working with the teen—must be held accountable. In these instances, law-enforcement agents are more than willing to refer to 17-year-old as "child victims" and charge anyone in their vicinity with human trafficking.

But while it's refreshing (if surprising) to see police in Bloomington acknowledge that teen girls do have agency and avoid the typical sex-trafficking scaremongering, the solution they're sticking with seems equally unjust. We're talking about a girl barely past puberty who messaged some men on Facebook. Couldn't cops have simply talked to the girl's guardians? How will she possibly be helped by having a criminal record before she even finishes her freshman year? 

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  1. New law proposal: Any public official who says that they had to arrest somebody to protect them is savagely beaten. Do I have a second?

    1. Why wait?

    2. Second law. Woodchippers!

    3. We require this law to protect people from proyecting people!

    4. Or just charge them with corruption or bribery or something. Not because it is what actually happened, but because it could conceivably be the end result of legal behavior that we find distasteful, and we need to make sure they get the help they need.

  2. The prostitution arrest will not follow her around for the rest of her life.

    1. It’s not like it would show up in a background check if she tried to get a job.

      1. The school counselors, administrators, and teachers who will be told about this troubled youth will make sure that her past is not shared with anyone else.

      2. Depends on the job. That shit about records being sealed at 18 is a myth. For example if she applied for a job that involved a security clearance, the FBI would have access to that information.

        1. That’s the joke. In the digital/police state age, there are no clean starts.

        2. Well, they’re not sealed-sealed.

  3. detectives have been investigating the case for more than a month

    and were hoping she would be sexting nude photos of herself at some point.

    1. This just baffles me. There’s a grand total of three, maybe four people to interview, a couple of phones to search.

      How does this take more than a week to sort out?

      1. How does this take more than a week to sort out?

        They had to set make sure she was really selling sex. And to “sample the product,” probably several times

      2. How does this take more than a week to sort out?

        Considering all the angles that are/were explicitly playing Team Libertine off Team Socon, I nominate this as “Most One True Libertarian Response”.

  4. Police Captain Steve Kellams told the student paper that by charging the girl with prostitution, the “goal is to ensure that this teen gets all of the help available.”

    What more in the name of love.

    1. Oh well in that case officer carry on.

  5. Maybe the parents of a 14 year old prostitute wouldn’t be very helpful. Just a thought.

    1. Check out this guy on his high horse.

      1. Yeah. I’m really going out on a limb here.

        1. Maybe she was an enterprising young woman who realized that she could make money off of married men paying her for sex.

          1. Impossible!

      1. ENB suggested calling her folks. Maybe this girl’s always dreamed of doing sex work. Or maybe she’s not getting a whole lot of support at home. I don’t have a problem with giving her a warning and sending her on her way, but we don’t know what the home life is like.

        1. Well I guess there’s no way to find out.

        2. ENB suggested calling her folks.

          Despite rampant advice and evidence around these parts to never call the cops, ENB wants the cops to pop in for surprise visits. Not to mention that the police can’t exactly go investigate willy-nilly.

          While I’m sure the evidence had already been compiled by the time they went to pick her up, and since she wasn’t jailed, I assume this wasn’t a kick in the door in the middle of the night no-knock raid-type situation. They picked her up well after school started on a weekday at her house. I expect there was at least the ‘this is what’s going to happen next’, if not a long counselling/legal conversation before she was formally arrested.

    2. This is the part that often gets ignored. Most teens don’t start selling sex because they have good options. Some do. Especially when you talk about what used to be called runaway minors, they are sexually assaulted by their legal guardian or an adult who lives with them. It may actually improve their life to live in a shitty motel by the week and turn tricks. Even if the people working with them are also controlling and abusive. Life is pretty fucking ugly for some people, teenage prostiution may be a step up in their quality of life*.

      *None of this should be read to imply that I support 14 year olds having to be prostitutes or hope that charitable people who won’t take advantage of such boys and girls don’t help as many as they can. It’s just horrible, but pretending that isn’t what happens in this world is no good either.

    3. While I am loathe to get the State involved with …well, nearly anything, I do have to say that my first reaction is that the parents of a girl prostituting herself at 14 are probably not great resources of any kind and there is almost certainly something pretty bad going on inside that home.

      That said, instead of some random, subjective “years-old” to be recognized as an adult, how about an emancipation test to attain majority? Who writes, administers and scores this test? I admit, that’s a big issue but it seems like it has a lot more positive potential than, “yesterday you were a child, today you are an adult”.

    4. Whereas having a criminal record follow her around for the rest of her life will.

  6. Couldn’t cops have simply talked to the girl’s guardians?

    Why?

    Why not just…let her go about her business?

    1. We can’t just have teenagers trading money for sexual favors! We’re not some 3rd World shithole like Japan!

      1. I read age of consent is 13 in Japan. I don’t know the correct answer but what is the right circumstances for a person to be considered capable of making their own choices? I would guess when you are capable of self support, but obviously child labor laws are problematic.

        1. I don’t know the correct answer but what is the right circumstances for a person to be considered capable of making their own choices?

          How about, “as soon as they start attempting to do so”?

          1. What age do they start doing that?

            1. Pretty early.

              1. So, at age, what 12 months? 15 months?

                1. It depends on the child, I assume.

                  1. “Who gets to decide” is the correct question.

          2. There is, in fact, rough justice in the common quip that “we will recognize the rights of animals whenever they petition for them.” The fact that animals can obviously not petition for their “rights” is part of their nature, and part of the reason why they are clearly not equivalent to, and do not possess the rights of, human beings. And if it be protested that babies can’t petition either, the reply of course is that babies are future human adults, whereas animals obviously are not.

            1. Babies do so petition all the time, though. “I HATE YOU, MOM! I’M GOING TO RUN AWAY!”

              1. I ran away at 3. The cops caught me and brought me back. I can’t say that was the worst outcome.

            2. The fact that animals can obviously not petition for their “rights” is part of their nature

              The person who wrote that obviously has never tried to take his or her dog outside in the snow when the dog is one of those that hates walking on snow.

              1. Their nature is hating snow. It’s man’s nature to laugh at their nature.

                1. Our foster dog loves snow… he eats it all the time (no, not the yellow kind).

              2. My floors bear witness to the truth of this.

          3. How’s she supposed to take care of herself when the police stand in the way of her making a living?

            1. Right?!? That’s why I put the part about child labor laws.

          4. You mean as early as them saying “But I don’t want to go to bed!”

            1. You mean as early as them saying “But I don’t want to go to bed!”

              I’d say terrible twos. That’s generally when ‘No’ becomes a ‘fun’ answer.

              1. “I’d say terrible twos. That’s generally when ‘No’ becomes a ‘fun’ answer.”

                And also the wrong one.

                Lasts a lot longer than the “twos” as well.

        2. It’s not the capability of decision making that’s the problem, but rather the fact that the possibility exists that they make poor decisions.

          The litmus test for liberty, well one of them anyway, is do we allow the individual or group to make choices that could have extremely negative consequences or do we take that choice away from them?

          1. The concern I have for young people to have free agency is that plenty of us play tricks on kids for fun, because they are gullible. I can’t see a contract signed by a 5 year old as valid if they don’t understand the terms. Then again, plenty of 40 years olds don’t understand the contracts they sign.

            1. Just like all you libtarderians who want to get out of your social contract!!11!!

            2. Right, and in this case, as a society, we’ve seemed to agree that 5-year-olds should be protected from the consequences of their decision-making in a way that 40-year-olds shouldn’t. So, for me, the question isn’t if a 13-year-old is capable of making a decision; obviously, he or she can, but should that 13-year-old be protected from the consequences of that decision.

              1. but should that 13-year-old be protected from the consequences of that decision.

                And, more relevantly to libertarianism in general, IMO. Should *this* 14-yr.-old be protected from this decision by her parents, the Bloomington PD, or the Reason faction of the libertarian party?

                I don’t like defaulting to the Bloomington PD, but Nikki’s the worst and ENB, just this week, defended a woman who drowned her 3-yr.-old son.

                1. Should *this* 14-yr.-old be protected from this decision by her parents, the Bloomington PD, or the Reason faction of the libertarian party?

                  I don’t like defaulting to the Bloomington PD, but Nikki’s the worst and ENB, just this week, defended a woman who drowned her 3-yr.-old son.

                  My vote is for the parents, personally.

                  1. My vote is for the parents, personally.

                    Lemme know when you finish with the magic liberty wand, wouldja?

                    Until then, either the daughter, the parents, or both were making the decisions when she solicited prostitution from the wrong wife’s husband and the wrong wife got the police involved. And, assuming the wife has some share of ownership to her husband’s phone/data, the cops have to at least show up and say, “Stay off their phone.”

                  2. It should be like a chain of command. If you don’t receive the proper response from the parents, you take it to the next level.

                2. Prostitution should not be a crime, and having known many 14-year-olds (and having been one) I can say that most if not all are no worse or better at making decisions than many people in their early twenties. What I can say, however, is that in our society more people seem to have acquired the bare minimum skills and experience to make reasonably decent decisions and/or handle the consequences of poor choices by their late teens. And I can also say that pretty much from the point people can speak they’re more or less convinced that they’re fully equipped to make all their own decisions and handle the consequences of same, not having anything like a reasonable idea of what those consequences may be.

                  Maybe for some libertarianism means not interfering with 14-year-old girls trying to screw married men for money. For my part, I don’t believe I’m betraying any libertarian ideals by suggesting that maybe, just maybe, there’s an option somewhere between letting children make life-changing mistakes in the name of liberty and an Orwellian nanny-state. In the same way I believe that, while a developmentally disabled adult has every right to wander around on train tracks, I don’t believe I am unduly restricting his/her liberty by pulling him/her out of the way of a train.

                  1. Maybe for some libertarianism means not interfering with 14-year-old girls trying to screw married men for money

                    If she’s ok with it, her parents are ok with it, and she is not soliciting you or or spouse, what skin is it off of your teeth?

                    1. I think in most circumstances letting the parents and the child choose when they are free to make their own choices works. Unfortunately some people have dirt bags for parents and probably would be better off on their own.

                    2. If she’s ok with it, her parents are ok with it, and she is not soliciting you or or spouse, what skin is it off of your teeth?

                      It’s no skin off my teeth. But it may be skin off the 14 year old prostitute’s teeth. If we move from this particular example to the general, do parents have the right to demand their children engage in sex work? Typically, parents are allowed to physically discipline their children, deny their children food (at least in moderation) and so forth. If we as libertarians are concerned about the coercive power of government to turn casual drug users into drug informants, how can we be fine with parents being able to use their coercive power to push their children into prostitution? How many children would be willing to go into foster care or testify against their parents if this arrangement was less than freely chosen?

          2. Just set the age to make decisions at the same age that people can be tried as an adult for a crime – that puts it around 12 in nearly all states.

    2. You don’t understand, Nicole: A TEENAGER IS HAVING SEX! EMERGENCY!

      1. Details, Jordan. We need details.

        1. You’re the man with the links.

          1. However, I am only one man.

      2. Trying to, Jordan. Trying to.

  7. Parents can’t be trusted when a child is at stake.

    The system will straighten her out, right as rain.

    1. A child is at stake?

      There is always burning.

      1. +1 French bitches named Joan.

  8. I don’t understand this. At which point does prostitution occur? Say you get a girl and a hotel room, and at the last minute, she changes her mind, and nothing happens, not even exchange of money. Well, nothing happened, right?

    And here, there were only text messages, apparently. Say that she says she was just doing research. Whether anyone would believe that is one thing, but strictly speaking, it couldn’t be proved otherwise.

    1. Well, usually solicitation is a crime of its own. So they aren’t charging her with prostiution, they’re charging her for soliciting custom for prostiution.

      1. I assume so, and I get the mechanics of it; it just seems a particularly grey area, in terms of prosecuting thoughtcrime.

    2. At which point does prostitution occur?

      It’s a victimless crime, it doesn’t have to occur. See solicitation of prostitution.

      I don’t know how the husband and wife divide up the phone bill. Our phone services are covered by my employer. I don’t go through her phone as a matter of routine (Facebook over-the-shoulder sometimes) but, if I found someone soliciting my wife for sex on the phone; I’d inform the person to stop. If they didn’t stop, calling the cops isn’t that abnormal of a response. No different than if they were soliciting sex on my doorstep or from the sidewalk in front of my house.

      I don’t like the outcome of this case, but the rather slanted presentation of the slim number of facts, combined with the lack of alternative, leaves much to be desired. Especially in light of the fact that no one was taken to jail or shot and there was *one* misdemeanor arrest.

      If libertarianism means screening every trivial and amiable misdemeanor arrest individually, I want out.

      1. Indeed. The description of the wife as “meddling” seems a little off given that this girl is messaging her husband.

  9. “Bloomington detectives began looking into the case after a woman reported seeing texts from the girl, who had claimed to be 17, on her husband’s phone.”

    When a woman moves into your house, you mostly give up to her all of your Constitutional rights.

    The right to free speech? You can forget about it.

    The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure? This woman reads every text her husband gets.

    The right not to be forced to testify against yourself? Women openly laugh at that one.

    And worst of all, women do not recognize the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

    P.S. Right to assembly goes out the window, too. “Honey, I’m havin’ the guys over to play poker on Friday!”

    Not for long, you’re not.

    1. That collection of stereotypes will make a great comedy routine if you ever get transported back to the Catskills in the 1960s.

      1. Those are NOT stereotypes!

        1. I can concur. The government’s got nothing on SWMBO.

      2. Jeez, Hugh, give it a rest.

      3. That’s not where we already are?

        1. No, still not enough English-Yiddish code-switching, my dear shiksa.

    2. TIWTANFL.

      It’s not because we’re all such awful misogynists, it’s because libertarianism is incompatible with having 2 X chromosomes. /sarc

  10. It’s Indiana University, ENB. Not University of Indiana. I should know, I wad kicked out of the place after six weeks.

      1. I’m guessing it involves a rival school and a goat.

        1. Zero class attendance, open and excessive drug and alcohol use in the dorms, and a general shitty attitude. The administration and I had a “sit down” to work out a solution. I told them to shove it, and they agreed.

          I stayed in Bloomington for three more years, playing in bands and booking punk shows.

          1. So the rumor about the goat is scurrilous slander?

            1. There might have been a goat…

    1. You’re Larry Bird??

  11. I even have to sometimes quarter troops in the form of her god damn sister–especially over the holidays.

    You wanna say, “God, I hate you so much. When are you finally leaving?”, but you don’t.

    You just don’t.

    1. You wanna say that to your wife, or sister-in-law?

  12. OT: Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate claims Abraham Lincoln owned slaves.

    I had the pleasure of voting against this woman in college, so that was nice.

  13. Do convicted prostitutes have to register as sex-offenders?

    1. Only if they give subpar blowjobs.

  14. I’ve long had a difficult time understanding the argument that ‘you are a victim, therefore we’re going to arrest you.’

    Maybe I’m just not thinking hard enough.

    1. Well, it goes right along with the “you put an arbitrarily illegal substance into your body, therefore we’re going to arrest you”

    2. BFYTW, we’re going to arrest you.

  15. Let me guess- they didn’t want to move in until the titpix were in their possession. For evidentiary reasons.

  16. Do you really want 14-year-old persons to rent out their genitals?

    Prohibiting underage prostitution is a compelling government interest.

    1. If they want to do so, yes.

    2. *turns to the class*

      Who can tell me what fallacy of relevance is present in Michael’s argument?

      1. quaternio terminorum

        1. Yes, but that’s a syllogistic fallacy. I was looking for “argumentum ad consequentiam“.

    3. It’s a parental decision, not governmental

      1. It was a parental decision right up until her text showed up on the phone of a man in a relationship with another woman.

        Your daughter shows up on my lawn soliciting sex, you better believe *your* parental decisions aren’t going to apply.

        1. That seems to be more of an issue with other things, trespassing and the relationship between two other people.

          1. What kind of libertarian are you? Do you want the cops involved to the minimal extent required by law or not? Should they dust off old statutes about women of ill-repute, have a local magistrate draft up a court order under the All Writs Act, or charge a minor who’s actually soliciting prostitution for misdemeanor prostitution and close the books? It’s a sad case and the saddest part, from a libertarian perspective, is that it took detectives a month to come to this resolution.

            1. What kind of libertarian are you?

              Presumably, the kind that thinks prostitution should not be a crime. You know, a libertarian kind of libertarian.

    4. If I don’t want them arrested means I’m endorsing it?

    5. Prohibiting underage prostitution is a compelling government interest.

      This sentence doesn’t even make sense grammatically.

  17. I give it a C-. Given the number of articles right here at Reason where the cops show up to talk to someone and end up in a firefight or taking someone to jail for crimes uncommitted and/or not on the books; calling out small-time cops for misdemeanor prostitution, with respect for the girl’s agency, from a girl who actually solicited sex for money is exceedingly petty.

    I guess you did manage to squeeze more of the anti-patriarchy, anti-cop, pro-libertarian sentiment than the plain old; ‘Jealous Woman Calls Cops On Sexual Rival, No One Shot”.

  18. There biggest danger to this little girl isn’t some horny husband. It’s the leviathan who wants to get her “the help she needs”.

    1. I’m sure the government can find her a job in a laundry.

  19. None of the men have been charged.

    Fuckin’ patriarchy, it is.

    1. Who amongst us doesn’t have text conversations with a 14-year-olds they met on Facebook?

      1. On facederp she was 17.

        1. Right. If they knew she was 14 she definitely would’ve had some customers. That is where she made a mistake.

    2. If they didn’t take her up on it, I don’t see how they should be charged.

      The amazing thing is, apparently nobody took her up on it.

      1. Considering the number of solicitations and the distinct lack of male convictions, I wonder if this girl isn’t soliciting maliciously/harassing. Not to play the ‘men as victims’ card but, objectively, it’s very easy to convict men for these crimes.

        I know if I said the wrong thing to a 14/17-yr.-old girl on line and she started soliciting sex from me, my wife would be the first to know and would be up front/at my side in the defense (assuming future me isn’t way more of a dirtbag than present me). Both for the fact that she’s my partner and the fact that she’s got the vagina.

        1. Considering the number of solicitations and the distinct lack of male convictions, I wonder if this girl isn’t soliciting maliciously/harassing. Not to play the ‘men as victims’ card but, objectively, it’s very easy to convict men for these crimes.

          It could be that the men are savvy enough to know that reciprocating the attention of an underage girl could be construed as evidence that sexual activity took place and is likely to result in a sex crime conviction which is a severe turnoff for most women.

  20. Who amongst us doesn’t have text conversations with a 49 year old church deacon claiming to be a 14-year-olds they met on Facebook?

  21. detectives have been investigating the case for more than a month

    I wonder how much of their “investigation” involved posing as intersted johns and arranging to meet her somewhere for sex? Before becoming a regular reason reader that wouldn’t have been my first assumption, but now I know better. Thanks reason!

  22. Why isn’t this the part being discussed?

    Kellams said it became clear investigating the teen’s communications that she had offered to have sex for money with several individuals, communicating with them over Facebook and via text message.

    What was involved with “investigating the teen’s communications” ?

    Were there warrants?

    AFAIK, Facebook messages aren’t public, so the Bloomington PD accessed her FB account?

    1. Were there warrants?

      Probably:

      Bloomington detectives began looking into the case after a woman reported seeing texts from the girl, who had claimed to be 17, on her husband’s phone.

      1. Ah. That’ll teach me to RTFA…

        Authorities interviewed both parties and read through the girl’s text messages and Facebook account through a series of search warrants.

  23. Couldn’t cops have simply talked to the girl’s guardians?

    Sounds like they did. From the linked article:

    She had a long history of family problems, and her female guardian told police she had been having a difficult time controlling her.

  24. “barely out of puberty”? Are you serious? With cycles starting as nine, ten, years this 14 year old is well past that stage. Further, with today’s diets full of chemicals and hormones, children are reaching full sexual maturity several years earlier than a generation ago. I’ve know 13 year olds to be more physically developed than ANYONE I knew in college. And don’t forget we have kids of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen perpetrating armed robbery and murder with stolen handguns. Even so, a generation ago girls as young as 14, 15, were commonly marrying, starting families, and doing well through fifty, seventy five years of marriage, seeing their great granchildren off to a good start. The signficance of age has radically changed over the past century. Mostly for the good..

    1. For a young female like this to be engaged in a “business” like this is a strong indicator she has little accountabilty to any responsible perty. Seems to me the local cops are handling this well… the “mandate” to punish anyone consorting with such an underage pro at deception as if they knew full well her real status is simply wrong. The handling of this shows good discretion on the part of LE.. to help this girl get out of her situation without unjustly ruining the lives of males innocent of breaking the law… I suppose we shall have to set aside the moral aspect of sex for money, adultery, etc.
      As to this girl’s future, no worries…. as a juvenile, under 18, any record of this will disappear when she is old enough to vote and smoke and buy a rifle. Hopefully by then it will be a dim memory, having turned to a much better life.

  25. Don’t those cops know that they’re supposed to shoot her dog first?

    Training. needz moar training dollars.

  26. So many people think that “the law” equals “justice.” It does not. They forget that 156 years ago it was “legal” as in “the law” that white people could own black people and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld those laws. That was not “justice” that was “the law” and, quite often “the law” violates the rights of otherwise honest, peaceful citizens. And, quite often, “the law” is based on personal moral or religious beliefs and not on what is “justice” or the principle of inalienable rights.

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