In this business, we cover a lot of great stories and a lot of really tragic ones. A story I just did on child prostitution falls into the latter category and -- I must say -- made me sick to my stomach.
Here's why: In the city of Atlanta, girls as young as 9 years old are being sold for sex, according to interviews with the girls themselves and the women who try to help them.
Pimps shower them with gifts, lure them away from their families, and then force them to have sex with strangers, often men old enough to be their father, for just $10 a trick.
Many of the pimps are drug dealers looking to make some extra money, according to LaKendra Baker, a counselor for current and former child prostitutes.
"You can only sell a dime bag once; you can sell a 10-year-old girl over and over again," Baker said.
Amazingly, pimping a minor wasn't even a felony in Georgia until 2001 - it was a misdemeanour. But even heavier penalties and some high-profile convictions are not enough to put pimps out of business.
How many have been arrested? I wish I could tell you, but none of the authorities in Atlanta could tell me how many pimps or underage prostitutes had been arrested, or how many pimps have been convicted.
What Fulton County District Attorney's office did tell us was this: "We need to be much more organized and we need many more resources to adequately combat the plague of child prostitution. While the Georgia law making pimping or pandering a child a felony has helped us secure tougher sentences, the shift from street activity to internet transactions has made it harder to get at the source of the problem."
LaKendra estimates that hundreds of girls are prostitutesof Atlanta, but she doesn't have a firm number.
With a crime so disturbing, you'd think somebody would keep a close track of the numbers.
Numbers on the national level are tough to come by too. According to the advocacy organization Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE), 200,000 to 300,000 children are involved in prostitution in the United States and an estimated 10 million children worldwide. But these are just rough estimates.
I spent some time in Atlanta with a girl named Shantique, who had been on the street for a time when she was twelve.
She said that her pimp, known as "Batman," tied her spread-eagled to the bed posts in the bedroom of a home he shared with his family. He threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't have sex with another pimp he knew. Sometimes he'd take her out and see if anyone was willing to pay to have sex with her.
Luckily her aunt found out where she was and got her home. But other girls aren't so lucky. Some of them stay on the street for years.
Shantique is now 19 years old and a freshman in college. She struggles with what she went through, but is getting good grades. She's also counseling young girls about how to stay off the street.