NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - “She was beautiful. She had a big heart,” says a mom.
From an innocent little girl to making vulgar posts, a mother speaks out about why she now fears for her daughter’s life.
“She was 11 years old, and she started running away from home. She got her first experience with sex at 11,” says the mother.
She says her daughter, who FOX 8 will not identify, starting prostituting at 12 years old.
“The prostitution opened that pandora box even more. A 16-year-old was basically pimping her, and she would keep the money. She would solicit through Instagram. She would show a very sexy picture of my daughter,” says the mother.
The mother says she reached out to organizations and hospitals to get her daughter help.
Nothing, though, seemed to work. Her daughter continued to run away, sometimes for days or even weeks at a time.
Then at 13 years old, she ran away and found herself in the middle of a child sex trafficking ring.
“Basically, my daughter was money and property.”
She called the police, and while they investigated, someone dropped the 13-year-old girl off at a family member’s home the next morning.
Her mother says her 13-year-old’s anger issues became worse, and she continued to run away.
At 16 years old, things got heated at home and police showed up.
" I had her arrested, and they charged her with assault against me. After that, nothing happened. She was released,” says the mother.
They called the mom and told her to come to pick up her daughter, but she refused.
“I refused to pick her up because I felt like maybe some resources would open up for her,” says mom.
She says she felt her daughter needed to be locked up, hoping she’d get the help while detained.
Instead, the Department of Child and Family Services stepped in, and her mom told FOX 8, they placed her teenager in foster care and charged the mother with neglect.
“I wasn’t neglecting her. I was trying to help because I thought maybe resources would open up, but boy was I wrong,” says the mother.
Eventually, the teen was released back to her mother.
“So, it’s not uncommon for girls in the Juvenile Justice System. Unfortunately, the rate for victimization for girls coming into the system is very high,” says Stephen Phillipi.
Dr. Phillippi is a clinical psychologist. He says being a victim is no excuse for criminal behavior, but he says it speaks to the way they approach situations and act out.
He says detention for juveniles should be short-term.
“So, you’re only held there for public safety reasons, until a court can look at the case and decide what the next step will be,” says Phillipi.
In January, the teen was arrested again, this time for carjacking. Once at the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center, she says her daughter had no fear.
“She’s listening to these other kids. One of the other inmates told her, carjacking is just a slap on the wrist. You can get out on that charge. I was like, wait a minute, every case is different. Don’t’ listen to her,” says the mother.
She says her daughter’s charges, though, were dropped.
“Recently we got her placed somewhere in another facility. It was a conditional release with Juvenile Court. I got a call, not the whole case against her is dropped, the carjacking, the principal to armed robbery. It’s all dropped,” says the mother.
It’s something this mom doesn’t understand.
“If you put them in a detention center, then you let them go free, my fear is that they are going to get themselves killed or their family killed.”
She believes her daughter would be safer if she’s locked up and getting mental help at the same time.
“We’re getting better at doing what this mother is describing, which is trying to do both. You hold the person accountable because we don’t want her to do the acts that she’s doing, but also trying to treat the underlying issues, which is a long list of issues that need to be addressed,” says Phillipi.
“We have to commit ourselves to the hard work to actually changing lives,” says Jason Williams.
Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams says rehabilitation is now his offices’ top priority.
“Working with criminal legal stakeholders to create effective programming for young people,” says Williams.
“The complicated part is that I want to ask him, who is going to agree to pay this money,” says the mother.
Williams says his office will work on the state and federal level to find the funds necessary.
This mother agrees intervention programs are needed now.
“I have to fight and I will continue to fight. I do fear if she’s released from where she is, she’ll come back, and I’ll be talking to you again,” says the mom.
She truly believes the help for her daughter should come while she’s locked up.
“As hard as it is for me to agree, yes, because this is why. I feel like, as a mother, I’d rather see my child through the glass before I have to visit them in a grave,” says the mom.
Copyright 2021 WVUE. All rights reserved.