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Noel Gomez walked Aurora Avenue Monday morning. Even at 10 a.m., little has changed since she first walked this street, selling her body as a underage prostitute.

A lot of these guys are still out here looking for someone to pick up, she said.

It was a life Gomez lived for 15 years. It became so ingrained in her, she simply called hooking the life, but it was a life that nearly killed her.

One guy ended up shocking me with a stun gun, trying to strangle me, hitting me in the head with a baseball bat and pretty much trying to kill me, she said. You have to be careful of the johns, you have to be careful of the police, you have to be careful of your pimp, you have to be careful of everything. You never know who s coming after you. It s like being at war.

Shocking statistics show that up to 500 children are selling themselves for sex in King county every day.

Prostitutes on Seattle s streets are getting younger, some just 12 years old, and they re coming from places like Kirkland and Bellevue. Increasingly, street gangs are selling underage girls into the life, assisted by internet web sites that allow them to operate as virtual pimps.

Seattle has long been a hotbed for prostitution, but only in recent years, with the explosion of child prostitution, has help become more easily available.

A defunct Aurora motel that saw more than its share of sleazy liaisons over the years sits boarded up and smeared with graffiti. A bright pink mural is now painted on the side, calling out to call girls. It reads DO WHAT YOU WANNA DO JUST KNOW THAT YOU RE NOT ALONE.

The mural lists three organizations that offer help to women who want to get off the streets, most of which are just a few years old.

It s important to give these women hope. They are all victims, said Deborah Edison of Seattle s YouthCare. The organization takes in young prostitutes and provides them with counseling, housing and a path to a high school diploma. Unfortunately, says Edison, there is no end to those who need their help.

We are seeing more young people all across our services because of the economy and their families spiraling downward, said Edison.

As for Noel Gomez, she now runs her own organization, Operation for Prostitution Survivors, which steers girls off the streets. As she took one last walk down Aurora, she said, It gives me chills to think what I did and what others are still doing. This is no life. This is no life at all.

More information about organizations that are fighting to stop sex trafficking can be found here:

www.stolenyouth.org
www.seattleops.com
www.youthcare.org


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