By DANA SMITH
YOUNG girls are turning to prostitution in an effort to make ends meet, according to a leading psychiatrist.
Dr David Allen said that as difficult economic times persist, illicit relationships between girls and older men are becoming "increasingly common" as a means to pay for expenses such as school and utility bills.
In his recently released crime study, published in its entirety as today's Insight (see page 12B) Dr Allen used a clinical epidemiological approach to analysing the root causes of crime over the last five years by analysing data from "diverse focus groups" in the community.
He named the global economic downturn, which left some Bahamians to seek other financial means, as one of the reasons behind crime.
Another symptom of the hard times, Dr Allen said, is that young girls "make themselves available to older men in a form of prostitution which is becoming increasingly common. This is seen as an acceptable way to pay for education or family bills, eg cable, electricity and water."
Yesterday, Dr Allen told The Tribune that in many cases, the parents of these girls are aware of what is going on, but turn a blind eye because the money helps the family.
The men take part in these illicit affairs because of the "excitement" they feel in being with a young girl, and their superstitions about STDs, he claims.
Dr Allen said: "The younger boys cannot provide the girls with the kind of lifestyle they want, but older guys have cars and can also give them money and they in turn of course provide the service. They don't call it prostitution but it is a form of prostitution.
"Now the older guy would buy a fridge, air conditioner, a microwave for the family, so when the mother gets angry at the daughter, the daughter retorts to her and says 'you better be quiet because if you don't leave me alone we'll take our stuff out'.
He said that some single mothers, "even though they're angry at the daughter, remain quiet because they are benefiting by the appliances that the illicit relationship is producing."
Dr Allen said he's heard of men older than 30 entering into relationships with teenage girls and he's been exploring the men's motives.
"One of the reasons is, there's the excitement of it and then there was also - I uncovered some stupid belief that said if you go with a younger girl, a virgin, you have less chance of getting AIDS."
Dr Allen also pointed to a lack of a father figure in many homes as another reason young girls become associated with older men.
"Here's another thing I found out. A lot of these young girls are longing for a father; these young girls are pining for a father. It's almost like the men, because of the social situation, are in demand.
"So the mother is saying 'I don't want you to', but on the other hand she's benefiting, and the young girl is saying 'I don't have a father who cares for me, but this person is like a father'.
"So, you may look at it like the older men are like surrogate fathers."
Last November police spoke out over the "disturbing trend" of missing juvenile girls being found with their adult boyfriends.
"We want to put the warning out, particularly to these young girls. They are putting themselves in harm's way," Supt Stephen Dean said. "A number of things can happen: they can be murdered, used as prostitutes, abducted, sexually abused... We are very concerned about this."
Supt Dean also sent out a warning to the adult men.
"We are finding out most of these girls are getting involved in sexual activities with adult men.
"We're saying to the young men out there who are luring these girls from their parent''s home - it is a criminal offence to have unlawful sexual intercourse with young teenage girls."