Exploited Youth

Fresno, CA It's not even dusk on a Friday and the night shift has already begun on Blackstone Avenue.

Prostitution is nothing new along this main drag through Fresno, only the faces are changing, baby-faced girls barely teenagers are offering sexual favors for cash.

"The younger ones are what the tricks pay more for, a lot more." said a former prostitute.

This woman does not want to be identified. She left the lifestyle just a year ago. She started when she was 17 and when she walked away 20 years later, she says the teenagers were easily doubling and tripling her earnings. Take home pay is determined most often by their pimps.

"It all depends. Every single girl's got a different quota. Every single girl has a different amount that she has to bring in."

Just as business starts to pick up, another group is preparing to hit the streets too.

"We pray lord that this night lord father god would not be like any other night. Lord we pray father god for a miracle to happen lord. We pray lord father god that a woman would come off the streets tonight."

The core prayer team is made up of members of cornerstone church. But some go to other churches as well. Prostitutes are approached in several areas of town. They are asked if they are open to prayer. Some accept, others aren't trusting or interested.

Gina Loera, Ministers to Prostitutes said, "Many of them were molested at very young ages. Many of them come from poverty situations where pimps are able to prey on them at very young ages. We see a lot of women who have been hurt and victimized throughout their lives and a lot of times prostitution seems like one that's not too far away from something that's already happening to them."

"Unfortunately reaching the youngest women is the biggest challenge out here. The young ones are naive and still under the impression that prostitution is a glamorous life filled with money and fun. Some of the older ones will tell you they are tired, worn out and open to divine intervention. "

Herman Quinonez is one of a handful of men who chaperone the women as they minister to prostitutes. He reaches out to the men involved. His job is often the most volatile.

Herman Quinonez, Ministers to Pimps said "A prayer for a pimp is always to get out of the game", it varies sometimes I get a hostile reaction, sometimes I get a welcome reaction. There's been a few where I've been threatened and there's been a few where I've just been called up for a dinner. It's a blessing either way to me."

For most prostitutes, walking away involves much more than just leaving. It means confronting other addictions that often go along with selling sex. Being under the influence is the easiest way to cope with the abuse.

"I wouldn't have done anything that i did without being under the influence of alcohol and drugs. But as time grew the beatings grew and my addictions grew stronger."

Life is controlled by drugs and pimps.

Even during the day, each woman is monitored closely. We spotted this man who at first glance appears to be waiting for a bus. Only he waves past each one. He's watching over several women. When we brought our camera out to the intersection, within just a few minutes he came to question us about what we were doing.

Confrontations with pimps can end in violence.

Fresno Sheriff's felt forced to shoot at Trenell Monson last December. It happened at the Days Inn on Blackstone and Ashlan. According to Sheriff's reports deputies were trying to contact Munson about pimping out a 16 year old girl when he ran from them.

The dangers are real. But, they are no deterrent for this group of about 10. Their mission is long term. Success is not based on what happens in one night.

"The way that we really measure success is when we're out there and were able to pray with them and were able to what we call planting seed. We plant seed into their heart and we water that and other times we come out and water that seed and we know that it's the lord that gives increase on the seed."

Whether the women grow into beautiful, vibrant flowers or never sprout at all, the cultivating will continue.

Prostitutes are also given a small bag of toiletries as a gesture of love and an invitation to church.

If you'd like to learn more about the ministry or how you can help out, click the links below

Website: http://www.beautyforashes.cc

Email: bfourashes@gmail.com

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