Fresh out of university in 1975, Lois Lee became a central figure in the hunt for a pair of murderers known as the Hillside Stranglers, who would torture and strangle prostitutes.
Because of work she had been doing with prostitutes’ rights, she got a tip-off that another murder was being committed. The police, who were part of what she described as the “old boy network” were not interested in news about another “whore” as they put it. But when the body of a 17-year-old girl was found, Lee took it on herself to mobilise the media and members of the sex trade and criminal underworld to help track down the murderers.
It sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood movie, but this story really happened. It was the starting point for Lois Lee’s involvement with a life-long project to protect children from entering the sex trade.
Later, dealing with organising testimony against the Hillside Stranglers, Lee went back into the underworld, where the people in the sex clubs and the pornography business told her, “You’ve got to do something about kids. We’ve got kids in our business. There’s kids all over the place”.
The reason was that the US Congress had changed the law so that it was illegal for the police to arrest children for running away, truancy or for curfew. They couldn’t bring children into police stations if there was any chance of them coming into contact with an adult offender – so the streets became flooded with kids in 1979.
“Over the next three years over 250 children came through my home,” Lee says. It was the start of a lifelong fight to save children from the sex trade in the US. Today, Lois Lee estimates that she has saved over 10,000 children from the ravages of prostitution. She achieved this through setting up her organisation Children of the Night, of which she is President. The organisation was the fi rst social service program to help sex trafficking victims, and it continues to be the most comprehensive anti-sex trafficking program in the world.
Children of the Night frequently hosts international policy makers, diplomats, United Nations delegates and social service providers when they visit the Children of the Night home, helping them to learn the lessons of Lois Lee and her team’s hard-earned experience.
Children are educated, given a purpose in life and taken away from the destructive and disruptive exploiters who would use these vulnerable young people to their cynical ends.
To find out more about Lois Lee and Children of the Night, visit: www.childrenofthenight.org