VAN NUYS (CBSLA.com) — While the problem of sexual exploitation of children in the United States is nationally recognized, there exists no hard data behind the issue.
The number of children who are at risk at any given time is said to be estimated between 100,000 and 300,000. One of the largest groups to rescue these children from prostitution is in the San Fernando Valley.READ MORE: LIVE UPDATES: Funeral Underway As England Mourns Loss Of Prince Philip
The nonprofit group Children of the Night works to protect children and teenagers, such as 17-year-old Abigail, who became a prostitute at the age of 12, the encouragement of her own father.
“He told me ‘older men will make you happy,’ and he made me think that older men were going to give me everything, and they were the way to go, and I felt that that was what he wanted, so I did it to make him happy,” Abigail described. “I’ve gotten beat up and stabbed. I’ve gotten shot, too.”
Abigail was rescued from the streets by Children of the Night.
“Children of the Night is the only place in North America where a child can call from a motel or truck stop, board a prepaid airline, be met at LAX and be in a shelter home within 24 hours of that call,” Children of the Night director Lois Lee said.
The group, which says it has rescued over 10,000 children from a life of prostitution, runs a 24-bed shelter in Van Nuys, where children can stay as long as they want, until they turn 18. The shelter also has a school, which sent seven girls to college in 2014.READ MORE: 2 Long Beach Grocery Stores Shutting Down Saturday Over Hero Pay Law
“We change lives, and we do it all with private donations,” Lee said.
Alyssa, 16, says the group’s shelter is unlike previous assigned homes and asylums she had been in.
“I’ve only been here for a couple of weeks, and usually when I go to my placements, I run within the first week, but this one, I feel like it’s different,” Alyssa said.
The group’s goal is to provide the home the children never had. They also do activities together, such as shopping or trips to the mall.
In honor of the group’s 36th anniversary, Children of the Night will be the beneficiary of a fundraiser of the Country General Store, just up the street from the shelter. The store will donate a portion of its proceeds to the group Friday and Saturday, and all of its proceeds from a celebrity auction Saturday.MORE NEWS: Armed Suspect Caught On Camera Robbing Group Of People In A West Hollywood Alley
For more information in the fundraiser, visit the Country General Store’s site here.