Awareness

#BeTheKey: Of Additional Interest

This information was gathered from our survey of 300 prostituted women through our social network outreach program.  Every couple days over the month of August, we are adding a new stat from our findings to help you better understand the women we are working with.  Read the whole series right here on the Free Our Girls blog.

After identifying specific categories under which Free Our Girls planned to observe various information shared on social media by the women currently involved in the commercial sex industry, we also observed a number of interesting facts that did not fall into any pre-defined categories, but we found worth acknowledging.

  • 1 survivor of the “Craigslist killer”
  • 1 transgendered
  • 4 openly talk about being recruited under the age of 18
  • 1 military veteran
  • 2 openly talk about having been married and divorced previous to their initial recruitment
  • 1 has just started running an escort service as her way out of performing services herself
  • 1 is a confirmed recovering drug addict, whose pimp was the one who “saved” her and helped her get clean
  • 16 have left the sex industry within the last 3 years, yet remain connected through social media to the life and people they once surrounded themselves with

What can this information tell us about the women vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation?  That vulnerabilities exist in a wide array of lifestyles and backgrounds.  That oftentimes the abuse and exploitation these women currently experience at the hands of their trafficker is STILL a better life than the one they came from.  And that the psychological conditioning and emotional bonds built with others while a part of this life are not easily broken, even years after walking away from taking an active part in it.

Grooming refers to the process of identifying the potential to exploit an individual, and making oneself a person of authority and trust within the potential victim's life. Once that step has been accomplished, it is easy for a trafficker to manipulate their victim into believing their lies, and learning to follow an order of expectations. Because the psychological manipulation is often incredibly severe, many women who experience this process find themselves brainwashed (Stockholm's syndrome), as they then accept this way of life as one that they chose for themselves.

Grooming refers to the process of identifying the potential to exploit an individual, and making oneself a person of authority and trust within the potential victim’s life. Once that step has been accomplished, it is easy for a trafficker to manipulate their victim into believing their lies, and learning to follow an order of expectations. Because the psychological manipulation is often incredibly severe, many women who experience this process find themselves brainwashed (Stockholm’s syndrome), as they then accept this way of life as one that they chose for themselves.

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Awareness

Traffickers Might Be Anywhere

The general image most people have of a sex trafficker is a dark, sinister underworld shadow of a criminal who has little contact with the general public, and lurks in dark alleys late at night.  While these do exist, there are many more that exist amongst us, who interact with us daily, and who have even taken an oath to protect us and our nation.  Almost equally horrifying is the fact that while civilians have been currently receiving 10-50 years in prison sentences depending on the case, this Navy sailor received only 5 years for trafficking a minor who was HIV positive.

Ex-Sailor Gets 5 Years for Sex Trafficking a Child

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Awareness

When Secrets Take Lives

The sex industry is viewed as taboo by the general public, and an unfair amount of judgement, stigma, and stereotypes contribute to the negative reaction most people give when they learn a woman is involved in the sex industry.  As a result, a majority of women in the industry hide their chosen work from their friends and family, and unfortunately someone who recognizes their fear of exposure can hold this over their head.  The risk of being outed comes with substantial consequences for women – general fear of rejection and disgust, loss of their legitimate employment, or being terrified of losing custody of their children all rank high as legitimate concerns if exposed.  Many of these women move away from their family, keep their friends at a distance, and create an alternate reality to tell inquisitive people about what they do for work.  It is only with increased awareness and education about the sex industry as a whole – what forces motivate or drive a woman into it, that we will see these women as unique and beautiful individuals with every right for a happy and fulfilling life.

Model Plunges to Her Death After Her Ex Boyfriend Exposes Her Secret Life As a Prostitute

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Awareness

The Secrecy of Sex Trafficking

Many of the sensationalized stories in the media cover horrendous stories of kidnap, abuse, and exploitation.  While these extremes absolutely do occur in the world of human trafficking, many victims go unnoticed, even by their own family, because the deception and secrecy run so deep.  What may appear to be a young girl going through some adolescent rebellion, may actually be a girl on a slippery downhill slope into the destructive world of sex trafficking.  What may seem like tumultuous young love may actually be the signs of a predator in the early manipulation stages.

It is only through community awareness programs that we can fully understand the complexity of the issue of human trafficking, and recognize the warning signs coming from a potential victim.

Mom Hopes Brittany Clardy’s Tragic Story Helps Others

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Prevention

The Internet’s Role in Sex Trafficking

Craigslist was the first major site to come under fire for their postings for adult entertainment and alleged prostitution, and they quickly folded, closing down the section of their site that allowed for escorts and other adult industry workers to advertise for their services.  Since then, Backpage has been the focus in the media as being partially to blame for the sex trafficking of minors here in the US.  In the summer of 2014, Redbook, a west coast advertising site was seized by the Feds and shut down.  However, Backpage has remained firm in their refusal to close its doors – and why wouldn’t they at least go down without a fight? – from 2012 to 2013, Backpage made 80% of the $45 million in revenue of the top 12 websites that carry adult advertising.

While the Internet has certainly made being anonymous much easier in many ways, and given predators access to potential victims on a worldwide scale, it has also made finding these criminals easier in many ways as well.  With the advent of social media, police are not required to obtain search warrants to browse traffickers’ personal pages, which often offer all the evidence of their crimes needed to build a solid case against them.  And sites like Backpage cooperate willingly with law enforcement, respond quickly to subpoenas, and have added additional security measures to their posting process.

When it comes to sex traffickers, this may be one area where Big Brother can provide some sort of justice for those who cannot speak for themselves.

How the Department of Defense is Using Big Data to Combat Sex Trafficking

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