A Cleveland doctor is warning parents about an alarming new phenomenon -- the rise of teenage girls selling their bodies for sex on websites you probably never knew existed.
Dr. Margaret Stager, director of adolescent medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center, said she has seen a distinct rise in girls under the age of 18 coming in for treatment over the last 30 days.
You've probably heard of the infamous website backpage.com, classified ads that police have often called thinly veiled prostitution. Ads on the site have often been used to set up sex trafficking stings in Northeast Ohio and across the country.
But Dr. Stager said these girls are using a newer website called seekingarrangement.com, which bills itself as "sugar daddy dating."
A quick click and you can scroll through hundreds of willing "sugar babies," many of them underage.
"Some girls are just trying it once and others are thinking, 'Hey, I like the cash and that wasn't too bad,' not knowing that each and every time they go in to the room, they put themselves at risk," Stager said.
At risk for sexually-transmitted diseases, violence or worse.
And Dr. Stager said the teens she has seen are typically from middle- to upper-class families, stable homes and well-educated.
"I really want to encourage parents to start looking for these types of behaviors. Text messages they don't understand, e-mails. This is really the root cause of it," she said.
Karen McHenry is the program manager of Bellefaire JCB's homeless and missing youth programs.
"These people that don't have good intentions for your children have 24 hour access to your children," she said, discussing how easy it can be to pose as whoever you want online. "These kids get stuck they get trapped and some of them don't know how to get out."
Bellefaire's 24/7 hotline is 216-570-8010.