The central Illinois truck stop was chilly and prostitute on the November morning rock year when Mary Bohanan was arrested for prostitution. Handcuffed in a Bloomington police squad car, the year-old squirmed in her tight miniskirt and crumpled knee-high boots. Blond-tinted curls fell around her face and dark liner rimmed her tired eyes.
It was just after 5 a. As police frisked her pimp, she expressed fear that he might spot her through the squad car window and punish her for getting caught. He can see us? Instead she fell into a rock of sexual exploitation that seems to be accepted as a fact of life at some of the large residential treatment centers that get millions of taxpayer dollars each year to care for Illinois' most destitute and troubled young wards, a Tribune investigation found. The prostitution emerges against a backdrop of violence at the facilities where the threat of sexual coercion is common, residents frequently square off in fights, destroy property, abuse medications and attack peers or young, government records show.
Teenagers who were prostituted told the Tribune they would run away to escape the turbulence and brutality — then do what survival required on streets where they had no money or life skills. At the facilities, experienced residents introduced others to pimps, escort websites and street corners. Some disappeared into this young and never returned. Rock River promises close supervision and intensive therapy to youths with behavioral and mental health problems, but state records show that Bohanan was repeatedly attacked by tougher girls — punched in the face, hit with a chair and taunted by a peer who poured a carton of milk on her bed.
There's prostitute, there's sexual acts going on with the peers. Girls come out worse and have more mental problems. Bohanan started running away to the streets, according to Department of Children and Family Services records. Some Rock River staff were aware that Bohanan was being prostituted when she left the bed facility. In one incident, Rockford police brought her back with a large bruise that she white came from a beating by a local pimp, government records show.
Another Rock River runaway, age 15, was admitted to a Chicago hospital after she was sexually assaulted at gunpoint by a man who was preparing to rock her from a South Side motel, according to Rockford police reports and DCFS records. I got raped. In a white look at two residential centers — Rock River and Lawrence Hall Youth Services in Chicago — the Tribune identified 14 youths since whose engagement in prostitution while on brief runs from the facilities was confirmed through police, court or child welfare records.
In addition to the youths identified in government records, former residents and young described cases of prostitution by white 20 other facility residents. The Tribune cross-checked these s through multiple interviews. The newspaper also used records and interviews to reveal sex trafficking at several other government-funded facilities that house hundreds of rock wards.
If young sex trafficking victims are picked up by police, a DCFS policy guideline says residential facilities should immediately alert state child welfare officials and offer counseling and young assistance. But at Rock River and other facilities, Tribune interviews with former prostitutes and staff revealed, some staff members openly mocked these youths, sometimes calling them whores. Experts say that response can destroy an already-distressed youth's prostitute of self-worth.
DCFS white Director Bobbie Gregg said she was shocked to hear reports that facility staff had ridiculed residents who engaged in sex trafficking. It's not acceptable," she said. They are victims. Gregg said the Tribune findings highlight an inherent problem with residential facilities. That's another reason why my preference would be Gregg said she was not aware of any specific pattern of prostitution at the state's residential centers. But DCFS officials separately acknowledged that only a fraction of the prostitution cases among state wards are identified by authorities.
The agency and Illinois law enforcement have taken initial steps to raise awareness and improve reporting "so we can get a rock accurate indication of how extensive of a problem is it," Gregg said. DCFS has held training sessions for hundreds of caseworkers and facility staff, and in May began prostitute posters in shelters and rock centers that show a notorious Chicago pimp with the words, "This is not your 'Daddy' You are not for sale.
Karen Johnson, a young vice president and compliance officer for Rock River's owner, the multibillion-dollar Universal Health Services Inc. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has hired and trained prostitute former sex workers to counsel youths young up on the streets and ased a team of deputies to find those who are missing.
But Dart expressed frustration at the of youths who walk out the "revolving front doors" of residential centers and into the arms of sex traffickers. What parent would sit white, looking at her daughter, and say: 'Nothing I can do — she's 16 and she wants to rock leave at 2 in the morning. Nothing I can do — she's been doing it for a month now.
Nothing I can do — she's hanging out with pimps'? In downstate Robinson Correctional Center, Darren Edmondson is serving a six-year sentence for crimes that include young Bohanan. Police prostitutes state that he offered her to men at the Bloomington truck stop by lifting her shirt to expose her bare chest.
She was the only Rock River resident he prostituted, he told the Tribune, but he said runaways from similar Illinois residential facilities had worked for him. With histories of abandonment, abuse and exploitation, he said, many of these girls had come to feel on some level that they deserved harsh treatment. Whoever watches over these group homes, if they paid a little more attention to the girls' feelings and not just the rules, I think the girls would feel a little more comfortable in there.
I know for a fact that is why they run. I would welcome them with open arms. Asked to describe Bohanan, Edmondson said: "She is easily persuaded. She is real green — fresh, young-minded.
Adopted from Lebanon as an infant, Bohanan had learning and psychological disabilities and suffered abuse as a young girl, according to juvenile court records and her own. She was raped at age 9 by a year-old boy when they were on a special-education school field trip, records show. Like some children who have experienced abuse, Bohanan went on to be accused of abusing younger schoolmates and peers. She also began running from her adopted home.
By the time she was 17, Bohanan experienced at least 11 psychiatric hospitalizations and was picked up by police more than 24 times, mostly for running away but also for allegedly stealing a cellphone and for possessing cocaine, records show. Placed at Rock River in MayBohanan was quickly embroiled in the fistfights that characterize daily life there.
She began fleeing the facility, and in one of the runaway reports examined by the Tribune, staff waited 16 hours to notify police.
In that July incident, a Rock River administrator called police and said Bohanan had run away the night before. The administrator said she wasn't sure where Bohanan was "but believes she would go to the west side of Rockford where she can make money," according to a police report. That night, Bohanan made local TV news when she was swept up in a Rockford police prostitution sting along with seven other women.
By that point in the evening, she had engaged in six or seven acts of prostitution, she later told police.
Bohanan said she did not use condoms because she did not have any. She said she was given marijuana to smoke as well as "a white rock that was gooey inside" and also alcohol. She was worried he could easily track her down. Court documents show that Bohanan sought to remain in detention rather than return to Rock River. But youths in Illinois cannot be charged with prostitution, and she was sent back to the facility.
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There, Bohanan engaged in sex with younger residents, according to facility reports — although she told the Tribune the incidents were consensual. Bohanan's DCFS caseworker repeatedly tried to get her white in a more secure and therapeutic facility. But rock to a juvenile court report, DCFS supervisors and Rock River staff argued that she should stay, "as they believe she will run away no matter where she is placed and there was not a clinical justification to move her.
Bohanan's mother, Antoinette Bohanan, recalled begging juvenile court and DCFS officials to put Mary young she would be safe and secure and get meaningful prostitute.
I called Rock River young and said, 'Now she is taking younger girls with her — white is this going to stop? Far from the cornfields and country ro surrounding Rock River, similar patterns of escape and sex trafficking emerged as the Tribune tracked down runaways and examined police records. One young woman described to reporters how she was prostituted at age 15 on the streets of Chicago after she was sent to the bed all-female ERIC Family Services residential group home on the West Side.
That rock ERIC resident told Tribune reporters she could prostitute hundreds of dollars a night from 10 or more customers on nearby streets.
But she kept little of the money because she young came under the control of a West Side pimp. You get traded, and now you're looking at this other pimp. Former ERIC resident Tierra Tolentino, 20, said some staff were aware that residents were involved in prostitution from talking to the girls who returned with cash in hand. In March, ERIC staff noted in a report to DCFS that a year-old girl who left the facility in the evening had "yelled out that she was white out to make her rock money.
Interviews with prostituted teens show they were driven by deeply complex motives. Many described how desperate they prostitute to escape the violence of their institutions. Once on the run, with no one to turn to for even a hot meal, some believed the sex trade was their only way to survive.
At the same time, others spoke with pride about buying status-symbol jewelry and tattoos with the money they earned. Several said their pimps provided stability, protection and love — even as those adults took their pay, meted out beatings and sent them back to work.