"We've got to expect her to run," Guymon explained. "She's running out of fear .... or she's running out of love. 'He's the only person who loves me.' We hear that a lot."
This is clearly not one of those make-a-policy, solve-a-problem issues. "People are looking for this big magic to happen. But we've got to be up for the fight," Guymon said.
A 14-year-old in hot pants on a corner at 2 a.m. needs more than a lecture and a jail cell, more even than a change of clothes and a promise that someone cares. She needs changes in a system that's failing to reform streetwise teens and protect vulnerable girls.
"We give up too easily," Guymon admitted. "That pimp will drive from Long Beach to Lancaster at 2 in the morning to pick her up. But if she calls her probation officer, he probably doesn't have his phone on."
And if she tries to go back to foster care, she won't be allowed in some group homes and might risk being sexually assaulted in others.
Foster care officials say they're working on that. "We need to do a better job in looking at these group homes," acknowledged social worker Xiomara Flores-Holguin. "If a girl says 'I don't feel safe there,' we'll look for a place that's good for her."
The probation department has work to do, too, through new programs to train juvenile hall staff and educate girls about what Guymon calls "pimp tactics."
"The whole victim-versus-criminal thing is what we have to deal with," she said. "It's time for law enforcement to say, we're not going to criminalize these girls. These girls are being beaten, exploited, coerced.... We are going after the traffickers."
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