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Somebody's Daughter: The Hidden Story of America's Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them

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They are America’s forgotten children, the hundreds of thousands of child prostitutes who walk the Las Vegas Strip, the casinos of Atlantic City, the truck stops on interstates, and the street corners of our cities. Many people wrongly believe sex trafficking involves young women from foreign lands. In reality, the majority of teens caught in the sex trade are American girls--runaways and throwaways who become victims of ruthless pimps.

            In Somebody's Daughter: The Hidden Story of America's Prostituted Children and the Battle to Save Them, meet the girls who are fighting for their dignity, the cops who are trying to rescue them, and the community activists battling to protect the nation's most forsaken children. Author Julian Sher takes you behind the scenes to expose one of America’s most underreported crimes: A girl from New Jersey gets arrested in Las Vegas and, at great risk to her own life, helps the FBI take down a million-dollar pimping empire. An abused teenager in Texas has the courage to take the stand in a grueling trial that sends her pimp away for 75 years. Survivors of the sex trade in New York, Phoenix, and Minneapolis set up shelters and rescue centers that offer young girls a chance to break free from the streets. “The sex trade is the new drug trade,” says one FBI special agent, and Somebody's Daughter is a call to action, shining a light on America’s dirty little secret.

341 pages, Hardcover

First published November 23, 2010

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Julian Sher

11 books8 followers

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5 stars
150 (43%)
4 stars
126 (36%)
3 stars
54 (15%)
2 stars
7 (2%)
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4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 64 reviews
1 review1 follower
February 29, 2016
“Wait I got a snow bunny and a black girl too/ you pay the right price and they’ll both do you/ that’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin’/ gotta have my hustle tight, making change off these women, yeah.” These are just some of the lyrics of the glorified musical industry of pimping and prostituting, where this song in particular won an Oscar for “Best Original Song.” America's acceptance of this culture has been in the making for quite some time now, thanks to a variety of contributing factors. Society is so used to seeing it everywhere these days that most people do not step out of the ordinary to question it anymore. However, in Somebody’s Daughter: The Hidden Story of America’s Prostituted Children and The Battle to Save Them, Julian Sher sheds a whole new light on this issue.

This book will open and educate the mind of anyone who chooses to read through it’s gruesomely written pages to the darkness of the world of child prostitution. Sher takes his audience through detailed first hand accounts of two young girls who found themselves sucked up into the world of human sex trafficking and how they fought their way out. Each girl, thirteen and fourteen when they found themselves struggling to survive on the streets, recounts exactly what they endured while they were being abused and brainwashed by their pimps. Although hard to read without getting emotional, the journey to their recovery is remarkable. Every reader will grip the pages as Maria and Felicia explain their horrific and life threatening, yet glorious, endeavors to throwing their pimps (the owners of million dollar prostitution rings) behind bars. The author covers the ins and outs of the industry from why it starts to how it thrives, and where it needs to end. His thorough research supports his heavy statistics. He also does a marvelous job of looking at each situation from everyone’s point of view--from the pimps themselves to the law enforcement who is held responsible for dealing with these tragedies. This brings a greater understanding to the readers as to why it all works the way it does.

Although seemingly depressing and heart wrenching, this is truly a worthy read and I would recommend it to everyone. Somebody’s Daughter is everything the five-star-rating reviewers say it is and more. I chose this book because of my desire for a better understanding after I watched an episode of the television series COPS based solely around these issues. Sher did exactly as hoped for by enlightening me to the truth of pimp culture and the terrors the girls in the industry face. I believe this was his ultimate goal--to bring awareness. Rather than the general public shutting down these girls and lying to themselves by believing that child sex trafficking is only a problem in third world countries, he wants society to understand the magnitude of this issue in our homeland. Throughout this book, readers develop a call to action by assuring that even the smallest of change is still progress--that each life is valuable and every woman who has ever been swept up into prostitution is deserving of a happier life--and that we must act as a whole to provide it to them.
Profile Image for Tricia.
305 reviews32 followers
May 14, 2012
I was amazed by how much I enjoyed this book. I thought perhaps it would make me depressed or hopeless, but it had the opposite effect. At times I became angry, not from the content, but because I want every person in America to read this book and educate themselves about this ignored evil.
A quote from the book: "As long as people don't know, they don't cry out for change".
And how about another?" "Prostitution is not a sin, it is a social injustice. Legalization leads to an expansion of the sexploitation industry and protects no one. You don't tax a human rights abuse; you abolish it."
I know this topic is not for everyone, but I think that if every citizen read this book then the attitude toward prostitution would change and it would be a completely different world for these teenage girls.
Profile Image for Todd.
165 reviews7 followers
November 3, 2011
Most people connect child prostitution to Southeast Asia or South America, but the truth is that the problem is running rampant right here in America -- Las Vegas being the promised land for girls who can barely drive a car.

Not only does this book reveal truths about child prostitution in the U.S., but it also shows the need for citizens to fight for new laws that target pimps and pedophile johns and not the victims. There needs to be a stronger infrastructure to help girls that want to escape this lifestyle -- a lifestyle they entered at an age when most kids are still playing with toys and watching cartoons.
Profile Image for Victoria.
1,086 reviews17 followers
November 20, 2017
Throughout this book, there is a story (and a few others as well) combined with statistics, reports, and information that is a little outdated now (this book was written in 2011, and a lot has happened since then in regards to laws for human trafficking and other stuff), however, it gives a good history of so many things that we can reflect on.

Most of this book talks about a girl from Atlantic City, NJ named "Maria" who had been picked up by a well known, yet hard to find pimp. We get a glimpse of what it is like in the mind of a girl forced into prostitution, what her trafficker is like, how his circuit functions, and ultimately what happens to her after years of abuse.

I think something that makes this a unique book compared to a lot of books on sex trafficking in the US, is that we get a historical account of pimp culture and what it looked like when it became popular in the 1970s, and how it may have stayed the same or changed over time. It was really well done and researched.

Something to keep in mind when reading this though is that there is a lot of vulgar and profane talk throughout it. The people who are used to life on the street talk in this book as if you were in on their conversations, so nothing is left out. There is a horrific rape case explained in this as well in a graphic way that really is intense and awful to read about, as it gets its point across of how bad it is for some of the young girls who are put through sex trafficking. Be aware that this book is definitely not kid friendly.

Most of the later half of this book talks about operations and what police forces do in regards to how they fail or have fixed their view of prostitution and the girls that are arrested. It talks about the aftercare aspect of sex trafficking.

Overall, I am really impressed by this book. I really hate reading books that have foul talk throughout it, but I endured and appreciated the meat of the book.
Profile Image for Jeanne.
745 reviews2 followers
April 26, 2011
You need to read this book. It describes the efforts of concerned citizens, police, and federal agencies in combating the problem of human trafficking in the United States. By following some of the people involved in major cases and introducing people working hard to see that the women and girls being prostituted are treated fairly and with respect, Julian Sher opens up for us a problem many are only too happy to ignore.

The first half of the book or so reads like true crime as a major prostitution organization is brought down. Using this basis, Sher helps us to get to know the motivations of the many people involved on all sides of this problem. Sher then turns his emphasis to the laws and organizations that help and hinder the fight against prostitution, and trafficking children in particular. Lastly, he focuses on the girls' challenges to establish a sense of self and dignity as they fight to get out of "the life".

Major themes:
--Attitudes toward prostituted children need to change. They are victims of a crime, but too often treated as perpetrators, instead.
--Attitudes toward prostitution in general need to change. It is not a "victimless" crime. It is not a glamorous lifestyle as portrayed in popular culture. Pimps are not heroes, they're predatory manipulators.
--This is a problem in our own country. It's not just happening in other countries.
--A lot of work has been done, but there's much more to do.

The one thing I would have liked to see is a "Here's what you can do" section. There are some links at the end of the book to the groups, so they might have information on actions we could take individually. When I read these books, however, I'm hoping for something more than just a raised conscience.
Profile Image for rachel'bug bugaboo.
4 reviews2 followers
February 28, 2017
Julian Sher has the unique opportunity to write about the situation of child prostitution from both the view of the law enforcement along with the social empowerment view. This book is clear and to the point on the reality and expanse of child prostitution in the US. While it has its good dose of depressing information, it is balanced out with the intriguing details of policies, possible solutions for victims of child prostitution and what is currently being done for them. This book allows the reader to change his or her preconceived notions on what one believed to be why pimps or hos do what they do. I highly recommend this book to anyone- it is linguistically an easy read and the way the stories are presented will keep you hooked to the last page. This book will leave you with a new understanding and will encourage you to do what you can to change.
Profile Image for Kelly.
9 reviews4 followers
July 29, 2011
Everybody needs to read this book. This is an eye opener to the real truth that most of the underage prostitution is in reality Human Trafficking. The girls don't get the money, their pimps do. These are girls that have already gotten the short end of the stick in life by being abused or neglected and their new found "Daddy" (pimp) gives them the love (in their eyes) that they so desperately need. After they are "in love" with him, he pimps them out and makes them believe that without him, they are nothing, nothing at all.
Profile Image for Shannon.
38 reviews
February 11, 2014
This book was extremely informative, and I'm so glad I read it. Flipping past the last page of this book feels like finishing a college final - there is that much information!
Though it's difficult to read about the children in our own cities and states being exploited, trafficked, prostituted it's important to shine a light on this so we can stop it. I'm glad to be out of the darkness of ignorance on this crisis. Thank you Mr. Sher for bringing this to so many readers.
Profile Image for Leslie Zampetti.
1,030 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2011
Sher's book is an eye-opener for those who believe sex trafficking mainly involves foreign victims. Well-researched and compelling, Sher examines the issue of prostituted children in America and efforts of the recent past and present to eliminate it. However, as well-written as this expose is, it does become repetitive. Still, a valuable book on a sad topic.
265 reviews
March 2, 2011
This book is sad, but neccessary. It is a surprisingly fast and engrossing read, despite the heavy subject matter. The author tells the true story of several teens who have struggled to escape prostitution along with the harrowing facts and statistics. The author especially highlights the struggle to make society, including the law, see these teens as the victims, not as criminals.
60 reviews
July 30, 2011
such an important book! a must read!
Profile Image for Samantha.
545 reviews
February 21, 2012
Phenomenal look into the sex trafficking of women in America. Must read.
9 reviews3 followers
September 5, 2017
Somebody's Daughter is written by investigative journalist Julian Sher. He dispels the myth that sex trafficking only happens to women and girls from foreign lands and uncovers the truth that the majority of teens caught in the sex trade are American girls. The book follows the stories of several pimps, their underage victims and the some of the judges, officers and FBI officials that are trying to help.

This was a very hard book for me to read. Several times I had to put it down and come back a few days (or weeks) later. I found myself mad and angry at what I was reading. Even feeling a bit depressed at the gravity of the situation. Here are some of the reasons:

Chapter 5: Taking on Pimp Culture.
It mentions something called the annual Players Ball which is like an Academy Award night for pimps. On this night, the pimp who has made the biggest pile of money and the biggest name for himself is awarded the Internationl Pimp of the Year award complete with a trophy. And not just any trophy. This trophy as described in the book stands almost 4' tall. Four ornately carved wooden columns are topped with a golden statue of a pimp in a cape wearing a crown and holding a scepter.

Really? I could not believe what I was reading. How are they even allowed to hold an event like this when prostitution is illegal? It makes me sick. Why are we glamorizing these people and elevating them to celebrity status?

There are two ideas weaved throughout the book regarding how child prostitution is inaccurately approached.

1. Under age girls being prosecuted as criminals rather than having services provided and getting them the help they need. The legal age for consentual sex varies from state to state, but generally it is between 16 -18. However, girls of all ages are being prosecuted for prostition even though they are not of legal age to consent to sex. The example given in the book was that a 14 year old girl who is seduced by her high school teacher would be treated as a victim. But the same 14 year old who was forced by a pimp to have sex and was paid for the act would be arrested and jailed. These are children and they need to be offered social services and protection from their pimp. Not locked up and then turned back out on the street.

2. While the young victims are typically prosecuted and treated like criminals, the men who exploit them go largely unpunished. The book states a statistic from Chicago where 89% of the prostitution arrests in one heavy crime area were the women, while only 10% were of the men buying the sex.

Mad, angry and depressed. That's how I felt reading this book. If you find yourself affected the same way by reading this small review of the book I urge to pray about those feelings. Perhaps God will lead you in some way to get involved or educate others. These things can't change if people don't know what is happening.
Profile Image for Heather.
339 reviews41 followers
May 26, 2017
This book is a brutal read but a necessary understanding of how teenage girls in America get sucked into prostitution after becoming runaways.

The forces of neglect and disrespect hit these girls from all angles: they are usually fleeing abuse and neglect at home when they run away, the pimps who seduce and exploit them end up hurting them, the johns who buy the sex don't care that they are buying sex from a minor, the police who sometimes find and arrest them don't treat them as human, even in women's shelters they are treated as the bottom of the bottom and if they eventually get rescued and returned back to the "square" world society marginalizes them. It's a horrible predicament for these girls that's almost impossible to break away from, especially if drug addictions get formed which is very common.

Not to mention what they go through in terms of pure violence. There were so many moments in the book where I had to pause, take a deep breath and put the book down after reading certain accounts of these girls. How animal can humans get? I just finished a book on the atrocities of the American Revolutionary War and all I can think is that the generation who built our country and committed those heinous acts isn't too far removed from our current generation. I'm also not sure if there is ever an explanation for abuse and indifference and evil.

Luckily there are a lot of good people, including certain legal systems and police officers in this book fighting to help out these young prostitutes. Thank God for them otherwise this entire book would be almost too much to bear. As a reader you feel helpless. I'm also thankful that the idea of human trafficking has in later years gotten more of a spotlight put on it though I believe we have a long way to go. Just today in my state of Texas our legislature stripped the funding for sex trafficking victims, a step backwards. But as long as we have caring citizens and non profits and charities willing to open doors and create shelters I feel these girls can have a fighting chance.
Profile Image for Judy Lindow.
643 reviews47 followers
January 12, 2014
Well I almost got to page 200. This book was good because it educated me about how at risk young girls and women are these days. The horrors and the magnitude of the industry will make you sick. It's a book that needs to be read so there are more advocates out there for these children!

The brutality of the men exploiting women as pimps and johns is nauseating. Coincidently, I'd just seen a you tube about the global exploitation of young girls on video cams - and how one young girl brought a virtual siege of perverts to her screen with just barely a sign on. So, it's very easy to get 'down' on men when you see the numbers and how disgusting they can be.

If there's a takeaway, for me at least, it's 'be a listener' if the opportunities arise and report anything weird - although I've done that before and it's hard to know where to go. I was told 'there's nothing we can do about it until there's a crime'.

I think it's very important and I hope it draws support for children and in the sex industry. Initially I was shocked with the realization that this is a domestic problem as well as trafficked persons being exploited from other countries; then the enormity of the issue hit me, the complexity, and the disturbing realization that I could be so ignorant.

It's also frightening how fast these young children are picked up, and how they're targeted and stalked. I admire the law enforcement, legal, and social workers that are dedicated to helping.
Profile Image for Lavinia Thompson.
Author 12 books33 followers
November 12, 2012
I have been doing research on the topic of child trafficking and prostitution for an upcoming crime fiction book I will be writing. "Somebody's Daughter" was very detailed and told real stories from real victims of these horrific ordeals. Researched like journalism, written with compassion and understanding by someone who is passionate about the message: child trafficking and prostitution is WRONG and has been overlooked for far too long in favour of saving those who are trafficked in other countries...but how can you save children in other countries when you refuse to save the ones on home soil?

This book brought to light many issues America is over looking and sweeping under the rug, and also brings to light those who are fighting to bring the issue back out into the open. Well written and incredibly informative. If you ever wanted to get behind the sick glorification of pimps in society, read this. You will realize the glorification is shallow and ignorant because there are real victims out there who these violent men brutalize every day and night. I learned much more than I could have hoped for by reading this. Everyone should read this so they are no longer ignorant and to stop the glorification of pimps. They are no more than pedophiles, violent criminals, abusers and greedy men who care nothing for the women and children they control.
Profile Image for Laura.
462 reviews
September 27, 2016
I found this book super easy to read and it was written in such a way that it held my interest. Never mind the fact that it was super educational, interesting and disturbing. It brought to light the difficulties that exist in the world for people to feel compassion for trafficked children and how people are working very hard to change these perceptions. It is interesting how the political community isn't really interested in helping out with such an important issue.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in this subject matter to read this book and not be daunted by the subject matter. Everyone needs to know about trafficked children and how to help them and be reminded that they are someone's children. Take the information and go forward and look beyond kids' behaviour to the possible causes.
1 review1 follower
December 10, 2013
i really enjoyed reading this book. the way the author portrays the pain, and suffering of the girls, to invoke emotion of the reader is astounding. there is a blatent humanitarian topic in this novel. its about the struggle of young girls who are wrapped up into prostitution and their struggle to get out. also it is about a police officers rise and fall in his unit to save the young women in prostitution. The main issue addressed in this book is is very blunt, and a face is brought to the issue. After reading this book i feel like the issue of cild prostitution is better brought to my attention, and that i should go on an endevor to fix this issue to the best of me ability.
Profile Image for Laura.
62 reviews10 followers
April 4, 2015
This was a really hard read. It sheds a good light on the sex trafficking happening here in America and the apathy our country has towards it. It shows how the media and entertainment industries promote sex trafficking in the U.S. and how our society slaps the hands of the Pimps but demoralizes the poor ladies and young girls who are unwillingly caught up in it. There is a need for change in how we as Americans view such a crime and how there is a need for change in the media and entertainment world. Pimps are sex offenders, sex slavers, and not someone to idolize. I'd recommend this to anyone.
394 reviews2 followers
December 16, 2016
This is an excellent (non-fiction) book about the serious problem of child prostitution in this country. The author focuses on American children who become snared by their pimps; the problems, the tragedy and some solutions. The book had some fascinating details. The pimps have award banquets and give each other awards for who is the best pimp. There are now many special types of Courtrooms which focus on helping children who prostitute themselves to get back into a normal environment. These are run much like a drug court. I learned a lot from this fascinating book.
Profile Image for Dan Stern.
952 reviews7 followers
June 13, 2018
Sher is a very skilled reporter and writer; he weaves together hard facts about the exploitation of children (which would make tough and obscure reading on their own) into detailed and thoughtful anecdotal accounts of actual children and their horrific experiences, elevated by the instances when a perceptive judge or cop was able to help them leave behind their tormentors. A very good book to get a handle on some of the factors that go into the exploitation of children, and an idea of how things might be improved.
Profile Image for Danielle Allen.
174 reviews66 followers
March 15, 2013
"Somebody's Daughter" gives a thorough picture of domestic sex trafficking and how its victims are treated and processed through the legal system. For someone who doesn't know anything about sex trafficking,this is a great introduction. For those with a base of knowledge, this book is very effective in exploring the cultural stigma of sex trafficking (commonly thought of as "prostitution") and its legal implications.
Profile Image for Meranda.
62 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2013
Very eloquently written (at times repetitive) book about children being trafficked and forced into prostitution in the USA. I have personally worked with several young women caught up in prostitution with a pimp and on their own to survive. I've seen them beaten and bruised, and this book was a solid look into that life - the perceived highs and the obvious lows. It gives a glimpse into the girls mind frames, how the pimps control them, and the efforts being made to address the problem.
10 reviews1 follower
September 16, 2019
Child trafficking is huge in the U.S. Most people think it happens elsewhere in the world. This intrigued me - in researching I found out my city is actually a gateway city for beginning prostitutes to prove themselves to their pimps. So tragic!! Painful to read at times - extremely detailed assault descriptions and very strong language - actual quotes from pimps from wire taps. Everyone should read this.
January 28, 2016
The read is interesting. Sher brings up good points and the style of the book is catered to a curious audience. The point is made pretty effectively. The transitions between anecdote and analysis do a nice job drawing the reader in. However, it is written fairly simply. If you're looking for a stimulating and/or complex read, this isn't quite the jackpot. It's written like a newspaper. Interesting and thought-provoking enough, though. Adequate.
Profile Image for Hariz S. H..
78 reviews19 followers
August 3, 2018
This is very important to read. It analyzed the dysfuntional social system at root level as well as the stigma, prejudice, law & justice, and the system that is unsympathetic with the children who are victimized (or revictimized).

Recommended for parent, everyone involves with laws and judiciary, social worker, and general ; to get over their stigma and stand by their side when many of society still don't understand them.
Profile Image for Kerry.
20 reviews
March 10, 2013
This book is a must read. I had the great privilege of listening to Julian Sher speak at the Demand Change conference here in Kansas City almost a year ago. My life was altered in a huge way. Once you have been introduced to the facts behind modern day human slavery, there is no way you will ever be the same.
Profile Image for Rachel.
88 reviews
November 26, 2013
Fantastic expose of the real lives and plight of the precious young girls that the American justice system all too often throws away and condemns as criminals. Also gives a simply excellent introduction to the peerless and tireless work of the FBI's Innocence Lost task force. So thankful for each of those officers.
Profile Image for Don.
285 reviews
March 9, 2017
A reasonably neutral portrayal of the real issues involved in child prostitution. Excellent idea to expose the often secret world of prostituted children and pimps. Julian Sher is my favorite investigative journalist.
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