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July 30, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

A journey from good student to underage prostitute

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Leila Navidi

Lauren, 18, inside her home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Lauren was 16 in 2010, a good if slightly rebellious student at Advanced Technologies Academy, one of the best high schools in the valley. She went to a party one August night and met Darrell, then 20. She fell for him.

“Nobody made me feel the way he made me feel,” she said recently.

“I don’t know. I guess he said the right words. He got in my head. He did what he had to do. And when I love, I love hard.”

Within a few weeks, she’d ditched school, run away from home and moved in with Darrell in a complicated household in the southeast valley.

He was good looking and funny, and they laughed easily together. They were lovers and best friends.

There were worrisome signs, however, as he could become violent without warning, once slamming her against his car.

Then, Lauren recalled, one night that October, Darrell told her, “If you love me, you’ll put this dress on and put these shoes on, and you’ll go make some money so we can live the way you want to live and get the things you want to get.”

His meaning was clear, that she would become a prostitute for him.

“It didn’t sound good, but the way he made it seem, it was like, this should show him that I really like him, that I have feelings for him.”

She was sent out with another woman who worked for Darrell’s father, who was also a pimp. They all lived in the same house.

After finding a customer in a casino parking lot, Lauren came home with $150 and got in the bathtub. “I just sat there,” she said. “You feel really nasty, disgusted with yourself.”

Pot alleviated the pain, though not much.

Darrell explained the rules: She would work every night except Sunday and Wednesday. He gave her a quota: $500 per night, one way or another.

When she came home with money, he was affectionate. If not, he was cold.

There were also bouts of violence. One time, she recalled, “I guess I said something smart, and I said, ‘I wanna leave. I wanna leave.’ He said, ‘You think you’re going to leave?’ ” He put his gun to her head.

She sobbed at this memory.

On it went. He procured a fake ID for her because, remember, she was just 16 and, as now, looked young for her age. Still, she worked the casinos, including, she said, the biggest and best-known properties on the Las Vegas Strip.

She would often sit at a casino bar and listlessly gamble, waiting to find customers. She believes they must have known she was underage.

“It’s all, all humiliation. When you’re out and about, people know what you’re doing. They’re saying, ‘She looks so pretty, but look what she’s doing? And she’s a little baby.’ ”

She was arrested for solicitation of prostitution on Nov. 24, 2010. Metro Police, which aggressively pursues pimps through its Pandering Investigation Team, asked Lauren to turn in her pimp. She didn’t.

Once out of juvenile detention and back home with her mother, she cut her ankle bracelet and returned to Darrell.

Soon after, they were stopped by police, and Lauren shoved a quarter pound of Darrell’s marijuana into her purse to protect him. She was sent to detention for 30 days.

That year, she said ruefully, she spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s in lockup.

This is what she thought about during that holiday season: “I knew in the back of my head that he was doing that to somebody else and making them feel like the way he made me feel,” she said.

Released in January, she went back to Darrell, and soon she was pregnant with his child.

Naturally, you’re wondering why she would allow herself to be abused like this. Lauren does too.

But police and mental health professionals and social workers see these situations all of the time.

Lauren defied her family and court-ordered supervisors, who all knew the root of her problem.

She was sent back out in April. “We were going to have a baby, so I needed to make money.”

This time, Darrell was more careful, creating an online ad, rather than having her work the casino floors.

On her second trip out, she was again arrested, with police apparently relying on an anonymous informant.

“Once I got caught, it was like, ‘Oh wow, this is old,’ ” she said. “I was tired of lying and lying. Once you lie, you have to keep lying.”

And with this simple and yet improbable epiphany, the fight to reclaim herself began.

Read Part 2 about Lauren’s journey and the broader problem of underage prostitution in Las Vegas.

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  1. Sad, sad story but far too many young people don't realize that there are consequences for their decisions and actions until it is too late.

  2. "Naturally, you're wondering why she would allow herself to be abused like this. Lauren does too. But police and mental health professionals and social workers see these situations all of the time."

    Coolican -- decent work on a difficult subject. At least she's neither whining about being a victim or becoming another pusher for jesus. She's learning something many much older can't seem to grasp -- choices have consequences.

    A negative I see is so little mentioned of her family, especially her father, with far too much emphasis on the bureaucracy feeding off her misery.

    "If you want to dramatize the evils of prostitution, corrupt a virgin, not a whore." -- Blake Edwards, director and screenwriter (1981)

  3. There are readers who might have difficulty differentiating between the illegal sex trade and human trafficking, and that of the established legal brothels. They are vastly different.

    The illegal sex trade and human trafficking exist and are a scourge everywhere on this planet. Its base business model exploits UNwilling participants (who are all ages, races, sexes, status), making them slaves. The presence of violence and psychological manipulation to force the worker into submission are ever present. They work in secret, avoid the law because they are breaking the law. Their lives are threatened on every level, and live in constant fear and intimidation.

    On the other hand, there exists LEGAL Brothels which are provided under law, and are regulated by local and state laws, as well as within the establishment. Absolutely NO ONE works in such a place who is underage, is under any manipulation or psychological duress to do so, and contrary to illegal sex trade, are free to do as they will, quit at any time. The participants are professionals who have elected to do their services as a chosen career, follow laws, and pay taxes. No harm done.

    The sex trade industry deserves our attention because of its potential to destroy a person's life, which the illegal sex trade does. As a civilized society, we must draw some lines of distinction. It's an industry that rakes in billions of dollars both legally and illegally yearly.

    Those who manage escaping from the illegal sex trade and human trafficking, have the opportunity to turn their life around, have that second chance to realize a functional, happy life. There will be emotional and physical scars, but with support, they can and will recover from their miserable past lives. If they live.

    Often enough, prostitutes meet untimely deaths, their bodies dumped in the desert, parking garages, and allies. Life on the streets is not safe.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Thank you JPC for this story. We still mourn for our missing sisters and daughters who were kidnapped and forced into prostitution in the 70's, 80's and forever. It seems rather obvious that we must PROSECUTE JOHNS to slap them awake to this horrendous lifestyle.

  5. We limit the choices available to young women. Throughout their lives parents usually treat their sons as valuable and their daughters as incidental only. Girls learn to place little value on themselves. Then the guys move in with expectations and put downs--the regular guys who expect a woman to replace mom and fulfill every other whim they have--sexual whims, care taking, employment, 24/7 catering to him. No wonder.

  6. "The illegal sex trade and human trafficking exist and are a scourge everywhere on this planet. Its base business model exploits UNwilling participants (who are all ages, races, sexes, status), making them slaves."

    star -- as a caveat, "illegal sex trade" is a perversion of law, the latter is as you describe it. An example is the age of consent laws removing personal choice and ignoring natural law. Nevada's age of consent is 16. So a 15-year-old decides her body is her own and takes charge of her own sexuality and makes a choice of who her first partner will be. If alerted Nevada police and prosecutors will disregard her choice and proceed against any older partner as if he were a child molester, etc.

    Yet when Nevada became a state the common law ruled, where girls could marry at age 12 and boys at 14. Consider the guarantee of our Constitution @ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Const/NVConst... -- "Inalienable rights. All men are by Nature free and equal and have certain inalienable rights among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; Acquiring, Possessing and Protecting property and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness[.]"

    "Men" naturally meaning "mankind," all human beings.

    "It seems rather obvious that we must PROSECUTE JOHNS to slap them awake to this horrendous lifestyle."

    Roselenda -- why?? It's not called the world's oldest profession for nothing.

    "Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a woman scorned" -- misquote from a William Congreve play

  7. Killer: If Johns recognized the destructiveness of paying for sex, some to lots of them would go elsewhere. Rather common knowledge that many prostitutes are FORCED to enter and stay in the "oldest" profession. Thousands of our daughters and sisters are kidnapped and forced into prostitution. It seems many illegal women are carted about for purposes of prostitution. What is so important about a man's "sex drive" or need to control and pretend superiority that women should be forced into this life style?

  8. It sure is easy for some to judge. If you ever taken the time to get to know people of all kinds, you would be a bit slower to judge. Over the years while living full-time near Ely, Nevada, where LEGAL prostitution exists, you get opportunities to talk and know people better, as I had with some working and managing the brothels there in Ely.

    Truth is: sex is for procreation and recreation.

    KillerB, sure, some people make rather questionable choices in life, there are no laws against being crazy or stupid. If there was, there would have to be a remedy in place. Any yes, the Constitution protects our right to bliss. Some more than others, I might add.

    Jim Reid stated, "Feminists love to make the claim but ignore the reasons for involving themselves in the first place." So what is the myth, Jim? Please be more specific.

    In the brothel industry, it is a career choice. As you are well aware, there are brothels throughout the world. Workers in brothels have their own world opinion and take on life, just as we do. It is about perception. Someone working in a legal brothel is quite likely to be okay about sex, and understand there are other professions out there. They are NOT forced to work there. They receive a rigorous screening before employment here in Nevada. When a sex worker no longer wants to work in that profession, they even have counselors supporting them into other career avenues.

    Nevada has laws. And certainly it is a slippery slope trying to figure out if some young person out prostituting has carefully thought out their choice. If they are on the streets, there is no counseling, no screenings, and little options. If they "fall in love" with an older person in a stable relationship and they are underage, it is statutory rape. Intent is the rule, I believe, under the law. We have skilled judges who are capable of discerning that.

    With ILLEGAL sex trade and human trafficking, there are enforceable laws, and the JOHNS are breaking the law by hiring an ILLEGAL prostitute and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That is no myth. Seeking out ILLEGAL workers and employing their services is ILLEGAL. That is no myth.

    I have NO agenda here folks. I do have the knowledge that there are prostitutes that enjoy their work, have families, go to church, send their children to our schools, and live an otherwise pedestrian life. Conversely, I have worked the Pregnant Minor Programs in the public school district, and that certainly has seasoned my opinions a bit.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  9. Oh, for Jim Reid, as an aside on your, "It degrades female and distortes her view of life when she believes there are simply two types of men, Pimps and Johns."

    Let's be EQUAL opportunity here. For centuries there have also been "Madams" involved in the sex industry as well. They are yet another form of service managers, as your male counterpart Pimps. To be sure, there are female Jane customers whom seek the services often of a male.

    We are talking about the SEX industry, and comparing (at least I am), the vast difference between the legal workers in brothels and ILlegal sex workers out on the streets. The difference is day and night.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  10. "Killer: If Johns recognized the destructiveness of paying for sex, some to lots of them would go elsewhere. Rather common knowledge that many prostitutes are FORCED to enter and stay in the "oldest" profession."

    Roselenda -- so you opine when a woman offers sex to a man he's supposed to go against nature and reject her. You ignore every man pays for it, with marriage being the most expensive. I've been with prostitutes. I didn't see any of them forced into anything, and the one with the pimp was nearby as protection. The first one I visited regularly for a time and got to know her. She did it because it was easy money. The last one I was with needed the money for a trip. So your "common knowledge" is simply your suspect opinion masquerading as fact.

    "Truth is: sex is for procreation and recreation."

    star -- assuming you're female, your posts are sooooo refreshing! My point is history shows us both governments and religion have been plenty eager to impose controls on people's reproductive freedoms. That's the source of my "illegal prostitution" bit. There has to be a balance, and the naked presumption my penis makes me automatically evil and a criminal suspect is just a too-popular extreme. Having had two teenagers bounce off me in their mad dash for freedom after their strict mother's post-divorce restrictions was no fun. But all a parent can really do, as BChap's post showed, is painfully watch your child take their own path and hope they survive it to come back to you some day.

    "With morality the individual is led into being a function of the herd and to ascribing value to himself only as a function. . .Morality is the herd instinct in the individual." -- Frederich Nietzsche 1882 "The Gay Science"

  11. BChap---
    I suspect that "home schooling" (especially when perpetrated by a control freak--like a cop or a religious nut--rather than a qualified teacher) is often more about control than protection.

  12. For KillerB, yeah, you guessed correctly, I am a female. Both government and religion are a living mine field. =)

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  13. "Both government and religion are a living mine field. =)"

    star -- your description is far too kind. Various synonyms of cesspool are more accurate.

    "I would greatly appreciate it if you would not alter my commentary into statements that benefit your personal posts."

    BChap -- chill, dude. If you took my post in context you'd see I meant that all more as my experience than yours.

    "We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell." -- Oscar Wilde

  14. BChap--
    "I penetrated the clique who had their paws of influence on my child. I also compromised their evil nature of influence...I was nicknamed by this element,"Cool Daddy". Little did this element know until it was too late that more than a few tons of bricks were about to come crashing down on them."
    This sounds like bad dialog lifted from a comic book; a sad juvenile boys lead-up to an excuse for vigilantism...while maybe wearing a cape.

  15. Chapline---
    If more people were like you (or if you were half as influential as you seem to think you are) this country's youth and this country's financial chaos would be far worse off than they are.
    But hey, take your ball and go home; this whole tit for tat was mildly amusing while it lasted. Good day.

  16. For Riotact, who responded to my posts retorting,"Star: I have no argument with this statement. There are some to which this certainly applies. To think that it applies to every provider in a brothel, however, is ludicrous."

    You brought up some very valid points and concerns, which dug yet deeper into the subject. It is difficult to quantify because of the nature of the sex industry and human trafficking. And I certainly would not go as far as stating "it applies to every provider..." due to such a caveat.

    There always seems to be someone who is playing some system for their own gain or desired outcome. As you have cited Riotact, there are individuals who are also playing the angles using a brothel as a possible intermediary. Usually that activity doesn't last long with savy brothel management and (I hate to utter/say this) government oversight. Eventually the truth comes out. Abused and exploited individuals eventually leave or escape, or die trying. Somewhere along the line, they talk, maybe to the authorities, or to the brothel owners, depending.

    I especially appreciate the candid life experiences posts of Bradley Chapline and KillerB, as I had a similar experience as well and can relate. Life is a hard teacher.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  17. Both Riotact and KillerB eluded that there are prostitutes who operate as private contractors in the sex industry who fall under the illegal umbrella. This is most unfortunate, as these particular prostitutes, bear an unfair brunt in law enforcement. They work, taking some risks on not being afforded the protection/deterrant of security (as in Brothels) or the watchful eye of a dominating pimp.

    Fabulous point, Jim Reid, "Sex is more than simply for procreation and recreation. It is a powerful influence in other areas. For instance, it is a marketing tool and
    it can lead to committing many other types of crimes as for murder in the case of jealousy."

    Our society is smuthered with all forms of SEX "...as a marketing tool..." and therefore influences the attitudes, morals, ethics, beliefs, etc. held by our fellow human beings from a very early age. It can be said that its commercialism has desensitized and even brainwashed people. Excellent point, JIM. By the way, this isn't a competition on who has more experiences. You are a very truthful and credible person in my mind.

    As KillerB infers, we have people legislating morality (to some point), attempting to define what is acceptable and what is not.

    When it comes down to it, SEX can even be considered a drug. It affects our biochemistry as well as physical preceptors/ions.

    The bottomline is greed...who is benefitting the most at what cost? What are the limitations towards this end?

    Violence and coercion are unacceptable standards. It is common for violence and coercion to be employed in illegal prostitution (lone, private contractors exempted here).

    Like it or not, prostitution and the SEX industry are big business here in Nevada.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  18. Killer: You allow your wife and daughter to be sex professionals? Maybe, maybe not. But would you not be angry and look for remedies if a daughter or sister were kidnapped or conned into prostitution for some guy who's running dozens of ladies and transporting them from truck stop to truck stop of strip motel room to motel room? Don't you remember the 70's and 80's. The cops called them runaways--they were kidnapped and forced and many never returned.
    I like sex, still do and might even be called open minded or kinky. And I understand to some extent that men and women "come with a price." All relationships have exchanges of some kind. The issue is CONSENT, informed consent, by ADULTS. As I've explained, I don't care what gets you through the night as long as it doesn't involve children or violence. And let me spell it out for you. By violence I include lies, intimidation, crime....

  19. "...would you not be angry and look for remedies if a daughter or sister were kidnapped or conned into prostitution for some guy..."

    Roslenda -- your posts I responded to did not make that distinction. As star posted "Violence and coercion are unacceptable standards." Amen to that.

    My aim is to remind one and all the state has no business whatsoever dictating or in any way getting involved in private, consensual relationships of any kind. That's why it's called "freedom."

    "To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson (from "Metamorphosis"?)

  20. So glad to see the all knowing KillerB(no real name showing) set us all straight.

    I have a pretty good insight on prostitution in Vegas and I know that Lauren's experience is all too common. You could legalize it in Vegas and it wouldn't change things. The pimps prey on these girls and turn them out. Their families have no way of geting ahold of them, most of the girls are from out of state. The girls are ashamed and brainwashed that their families wouldn't want them back. These girls don't have many choices. Prosecuting pimps takes direct witnesses and these girls aren't known for being the best witnesses. Once they are in it for a while they become inured to their sub-culture and it becoming the only thing they know.

    There are women who have made the conscience choice to be escorts and can handle it. Those women are very few though.

    Everyone thinks they know what to do about illegal prostitution but very few know what it is really about.

  21. Thank you Patrick for (unwittingly?) exposing the lies propagated by Karen Hughes, in the 2009 Sun story, and her band of thugs at metro: i.e., that their main target is the pimp. Not only do the police (and the do-gooders, the religious judges, DA's, social workers, and the cowardly politicians) criminalize the victim, Lauren in this case, but they CAUSE child prostitution by their prohibitionist attitudes and laws. There are ZERO child prostitutes in the legal brothels of Nevada and perhaps even in its 13 counties, which honor that portion of the Declaration of Independence--life, liberty and pursuit of happiness--that our phony patriots ignore and wish to trample into oblivion.

    All of the real vices--criminalization of minors, pimps, beatings, enslavement, robberies, jail time, police records, social stigmatization, etc.--are the direct result of prohibition. Even the primps themselves and minor vices like tax avoidance, which the bureaucrats love to bemoan, are caused by the prohibitionists. None of these problems exist wherever prostitution is legal. If Lauren is unable to get a job and has to be supported by the taxpayers for the rest of her life (at a cost up to $2M), we can thank Metro and the politicians who prostitute themselves to the religious know-it-alls and to the resort industry, which doesn't want the competition.

    Birdie, you are in fact dreamin', if you think the cause of prostitution is handbills! It precedes Gutenberg.
    Yoshiyuru, locking up the police- and politician-created pimps is a band aid solution. Legalizing prostitution will put the pimps out of business and allow us to reduce taxes (and Metro's) budget by at least $100,000,000.
    Airweare, you're right: our institutions and leadership are about alienation and inhumanity.
    SgtRock, do you have an issue with racism?
    Roslenda and Riotact, you, with Karen (Hughes) and Chris (Baughman), construct strawman (myths) which you can easily blow down. They have never found a prostitute in a legal brothel kidnapped or otherwise forced to be there. Have you? Try "kidnapping" your mind to traffic in the truth!
    Acejoker, by your interpretation any menial job could be considered "degrading". What is really degrading in Las Vegas, where, I repeat, child prostitution is caused by prohibition, is the mind-numbing and dehumanizing religious doctrine with its emphasis on condemnation, punishment, isolation, separation, one-up-manship, victimization and "legalized" violence. Ditto, Saltydawg.
    BChap, it's too bad you consider your opinions and decisions to be the only legitimate ones. Maybe you should work for Metro--or move to Saudi Arabia where views on dating and freedom are similar to your own.
    Brianlv, the solution to illegal prostitution (and nearly every other "problem" you prohibitionists cite) is legal and regulated prostitution.
    Ed Uehling

  22. duh: Let's keep working on that reading comprehension, huh. Where have I ever posted that legal prostitution should be outlawed? There may be intimidation and demeaning treatment in their past but the sex workers must make their own choices. I am staunchly opposed to NON-CONSENSUAL PROSTITUTION which automatically included underage and illegal women and those being held / managed against their will.
    And duh, I have counseled former sex workers who were soooo glad to be out of the trade--they had worked in brothels in rural Nevada. I recall one stunning woman who was finally realizing that her husband was using her. She had gotten out of the trade but still worked while he didn't. They had children and she was trying to figure out a reasonable path to take. Sure, some women really like the work--cause they were so abused as kids they feel their only value is as a sex object. And maybe some women are "exploring their sexuality" which they ought to be able to do even if they can find employment elsewhere. Again, if the "work" is something you would not want to do, would not want your child to do, you should not buy the product. Prosecuting Johns and pimps is the only direct approach to deal with this.

  23. p.s. It's real tough to prosecute legal brothel owners....

  24. Brianlv: I appreciate the succinct post. Rational, coherent, well spoken. Those who focus on the family are ignoring reality for many people--who have no caring family and never did.

  25. "I am staunchly opposed to NON-CONSENSUAL PROSTITUTION which automatically included underage and illegal women and those being held / managed against their will."

    Roslenda -- you seem to not know what "consensual" really means. "Underage" is something mentioned repeatedly in this Discussion. The subject here was not underage, since Nevada's age of consent is 16, a fine and debatable legal point anyway. By "illegal" did you mean undocumented workers, as in "illegal" aliens?

    "You don't know anything about a woman until you meet her in court." -- Norman Mailer

  26. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  27. Everybody calls themselves a pimp. What a joke, these guys are nothing more then boyfriends feeding off the innocence of young virgins or at least very impressional girls.