SAN ANTONIO – Teenage prostitution is a growing problem in our city and a recent arrest highlights a common way girls are being lured.
Runaways are especially vulnerable to being pulled into the sex trade.
San Antonio police say 25-year-old Manuel Ramirez sexually assaulted a 16-year-old runaway multiple times at a west side motel.
"Our victim was a documented runaway. At some point while she was away from home she came into contact with our suspect,” Officer Matt Porter says.
Police found the girl at another motel on the northwest side last October with a 13-year-old girl. They revealed they were both prostitutes who, with the help of a pimp, found customers online.
"To be quite frank, it's scary that someone would take advantage of children this way,” Officer Porter says.
It’s unclear where the 13-year-old and 16-year-old victims are now but police say they are safe.
Counselors at ChildSafe say most people have no idea about the seedy underworld of child trafficking.
"Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Randy McGibeny with ChildSafe says. “I think they would be shocked to hear the numbers."
He says it’s something child advocates deal with every day in Bexar County but hard numbers are hard to come by because there’s no database to monitor how many teenaged prostitutes go through the legal system.
"There's a human trafficking coalition and one of the components of that is looking at domestic minor sex trafficking and building out a database,” McGibeny says.
He says it’s hard to help victims rebuild their lives because too often, they’ve known only a life on the streets.
"They're manipulated into thinking these guys like them, that they love them, that they're going to take care of them,” McGibeny says. “They're runaways. They have nowhere to go.”