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Girls in sex trade need help, not prison, former victims say

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Gregory Leon Hightower pimped young girls up and down the West Coast, from Seattle and Portland all the way to Orange County, where they worked in the shadow of the Happiest Place on Earth.

“He would store us at the Motel 6, which is about two blocks from the Disneyland main entrance, while we worked Harbor Boulevard from Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove,” said Wendy Barnes, who was swept under Hightower’s spell with exhortations of love and romance when she was a troubled 15-year-old, eager for love.

She soon had his child. To earn her keep and feed her baby, he persuaded her to have sex with other men for money. To mute the pain, he introduced her to crack cocaine. He beat her, praised her, threatened her mother’s life, said she was the only woman he’d ever love.

She was not. Hightower ran girls as young as 14 and 15, all ensnared in a singular, unimaginable kind of hell, Barnes writes in a riveting book about her experience, “And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom.” Asking police for help was ludicrous: The police are the enemy, they think you’re scum, and they’ll treat you far worse than I ever will, Hightower drummed into Barnes and the other girls.

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1 in 5 New York Kids Are Sexually Abused. Help Prevent That

The CDC reports that 1 in 5 children are sexually abused.

9 out of 10 of the perpetrators are never brought to justice and never appear on sex offender registries.

They are protected by New York State laws.

Sign this petition and change that. Protect NY Kids.

Sign Petition Now

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